Published: Sun, April 07, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Japanese space agency JAXA BLOWS UP asteroid with a BOMB

Japanese space agency JAXA BLOWS UP asteroid with a BOMB

The box then sent a copper ball about the size of a baseball into the asteroid.

Hayabusa2 moved to a safe zone behind the asteroid ahead of the operation so that it will not be damaged by stone fragments flying up from the asteroid surface.

In February, Hayabusa 2 touched down briefly on the asteroid after a journey of more than three-and-a-half-years and fired a bullet into the surface to puff up dust for collection, before blasting back to its holding position.

Once at the crater and after the dust and debris has settled, depending on the fallout of the blast, the spacecraft will be able to descend to a lower altitude and collect some of the newly excavated material.

A bit before midday Japan Standard Time (JST) on Friday, the spacecraft attempted to blast a new crater on Ryugu by firing something called a "small carry-on impactor" (SCI) toward the asteroid.

If successful, it would be the first time a spacecraft collected such materials, according to JAXA. Once debris in space settles around the rock, the spacecraft will return and collect samples from the human-made crater that features material kept from the sun or space rays.

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The explosive mission is the riskiest yet attempted by the Japanese space agency's Hayabusa2 probe that aims to reveal more about the origins of life on Earth. After meeting up in deep space, Hayabusa 2 began mapping the surface of Ryugu to develop a plan of attack.

Shards of rock ejected from the impact site were caught on camera, but JAXA has said that it will only be able to confirm whether an artificial crater has been successfully created later in April after the probe has manoeuvred back to the site to make extensive observations. After the late 2014 launch, Hayabusa2 reached the asteroid late past year, and landed its special hopping rovers on the surface of Ryugu in September.

Scientists hope the samples will help determine the history of the asteroid and our planet.

"We are excited to see what will happen when the impactor collides with the asteroid", Takashi Kubota, an engineering researcher at Jaxa, said before the detonation.

"So far, Hayabusa-2 has done everything as planned, and we are delighted", mission leader Makoto Yoshikawa said earlier Friday.

Ryugu the asteroid, named after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is located some 180 million miles from Earth. It's as close as we can come to getting a sample of the early solar system. Then, it will deploy a collector to pick up samples of the asteroid and, unlike previous missions to comets and asteroids, will return samples to Earth in December 2020.

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