Published: Tue, April 09, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

JAXA’s Hayabusa-2 Detonated Explosive Charge On Asteroid Ryugu

JAXA’s Hayabusa-2 Detonated Explosive Charge On Asteroid Ryugu

Six weeks after firing a bullet at Ryugu's rugged surface to collect dislodged debris, JAXA's Hayabusa-2 probe has gone one better this time by "bombing" it with a small softball-sized copper ball.

Although the detonation was too small to move Ryugu off-orbit, JAXA scientist Makoto Yoshikawa said the ability to operate a probe to this level of precision marked "an important achievement in planetary defence" if Earth were threatened by an asteroid.

For Hayabusa-2, Friday's attempt to blast a small crater in asteroid Ryugu was the riskiest part of its mission because it had to immediately move away so it wouldn't get hit by any flying shards from the blast, according to the Associated Press. Once the dust from the impact site has settled, Hayabusa-2 will be sent back to the site to collect samples from the new crater that has not been exposed to cosmic rays.

The country's space agency has launched a key part of a unique mission, created to get underground samples from an asteroid, floating in space 300 million kilometres away from our planet.

These particles were successfully collected by the probe, according to JAXA.

After dropping the impactor, Hayabusa-2 had 40 minutes in which to hide away on the other side of the asteroid to shield itself from any blasted off debris.

In February, Hayabusa2 briefly landed on Ryugu and fired a tantalum pellet into the surface that likely knocked about 10 grams of rock fragments into a collection horn.

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The goal of the explosion was to create an artificial crater on Ryugu.

The SCI was one of several deployable modules carried to Ryugu by Hayabusa 2, along with the three landers it released previous year to explore the asteroid's surface.

Members of The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, seen on screen, celebrate, as Hayabusa2 spacecraft safely evacuated and remained intact after the blast, in Sagamihara, near Tokyo, Friday, April 5, 2019.

The mission will be the latest in a series of explorations carried out by the Japanese space agency's Hayabusa2 probe and could reveal more about the origin of life on Earth.

A live webcast of the mission room on the southern island of Tanegashima showed Jaxa staff applauding as the probe successfully completed each stage of the most critical phase of its mission so far. This material is scheduled to come down to Earth in a special return capsule in December 2020.

After that task is complete, all that's left for Hayabusa2 to do is head back to Earth, carrying with it precious souvenirs of the space rock it will have spent a year and a half studying.

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