Japan's spacecraft drops explosive on asteroid to form crater


In this computer graphics image released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Hayabusa2 spacecraft is seen above on the asteroid Ryugu.

JAXA then collected samples, which have been exposed by the demolition of the surface, to help explain the origins of the solar system.

JAXA scientists will embark on research to collect information about the asteroid's interior, the conditions of which remain as they were at the time of the birth of the solar system.

The mission's Twitter account confirmed the spacecraft did not encounter any problems during the evacuation, adding in its most recent update that the mission was "steadily progressing".

The camera should be able to transmit those images, but it is unclear when the first confirmation of the mission's success will come.

The candidate site for the crater is near the asteroid's equator and the impact of the copper mass is supposed to create a hole several meters in diameter.

Ryugu, a Type C asteroid, contains traces of water and organic material and it is hoped that analysing this material will reveal what the early conditions were like at the time the solar system formed around 4,6 billion years ago. Photos showed what looked to be ejection from the surface of Ryugu, leading the agency to believe that the test had gone as planned.

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About three weeks after smacking Ryugu with what's basically a copper cannon ball, Hayabusa2 will begin a search for the artificial crater from a higher vantage point and plan for a touchdown at its custom landing spot as early as May.

Immediately (within a few seconds) on dropping the SCI, Hayabusa-2 moved itself to hide away on the other side of the asteroid, shielding the spacecraft from any flying debris.

The explosive device, called the Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI), is a 14 kilogram conical container packed with plastic explosive.

Images and data from Hayabusa2 indicate the separation of SCI and the camera to observe the impact went smoothly, mission manager Makoto Yoshikawa reported at an afternoon press briefing. The craft is scheduled to leave the asteroid at the end of 2019 and bring surface fragments and underground samples back to Earth in late 2020.

According to The Guardian, Japan's Hayabusa 2 probe has returned near the surface of the asteroid Ryugu where it has now "bombed" it for the benefit of science.

Japan has dropped a bomb on a distant asteroid around 186 million miles away from Earth, with Hayabusa2 preparing to swoop in and sample the results of its controlled explosion.

The cutting-edge spacecraft will return to Earth in December with its extraordinary samples.