Japan's Hayabusa 2 bombs Ryugu asteroid, creates crater to conduct more studies

Hayabusa -2's MASCOT lander has made it to the surface of the asteroid Ryugu
Hayabusa -2's MASCOT lander has made it to the surface of the asteroid Ryugu DLR CC-BY 3.0

Japan's Hayabusa 2 has blasted the Ryugu asteroid one more time, and the probe has successfully made one more hole on the space body's surface to gather materials that may unlock several clues regarding life's origin in the universe. It was on last February that the Japanese probe initially made a hole on the asteroid's surface using a projectile, and now they have done it again, and this time, they apparently used an explosive device to complete the task.

Experts revealed that this projectile insertion using the explosive device is one of the riskiest ever space act carried out by humans. As per the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), Hayabusa 2 released Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI), a cone-shaped device capped with a copper bottom when the probe hovered just 500 meters above the asteroid. The impactor successfully triggered the explosion 40 minutes later and propelled the copper bottom towards Ryugu.

Experts revealed that the detonation on the surface of Ryugu was so small, and it will not have any impacts in moving Ryugu off orbit. As per JAXA scientists, the crater formed after the explosion could be more than ten meters in diameter if the surface is sandy, and will be three meters in diameter if it is rocky.

During the time of the explosion, Hayabusa 2 moved smartly from the area and protected itself from being damaged by scattering debris. Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa 2 project manager also confirmed that the impactor hit the surface of the asteroid and he made this conclusion after analyzing the image captured by the camera released by the probe during the mission.

Space experts believe that collecting samples from the Ryugu asteroid could unlock several mysteries surrounding the origin of life in the universe. The asteroid is thought to contain large amounts of organic matter and water that might be more than 4.2 billion years old.

Hayabusa 2 probe was launched in 2014, and if everything goes as planned, the spacecraft will return to earth in 2020 with samples of the asteroid.

This article was first published on April 6, 2019
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