Japan Bombards Asteroid to Shed Light on Origin of Solar System


Friday's mission was the riskiest for Hayabusa2 because it had to immediately move away so it wouldn't get hit by flying shards from the blast.

Tonight, the Hayabusa-2 will engage in this "crater operation" (April 4 in the US and the morning of April 5 at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) headquarters), where it will shoot asteroid Ryugu with explosives to create an artificial crater, Space.com reported.

The space agency, JAXA, used its Hayabusa2 spacecraft to destroy part of the Ryugu with a basketball sized bomb.

It'll be a few more weeks until the team goes hunting for the crater, with the search operation set to begin the week of April. 22.

The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is about 300 million kilometres (180 million miles) from Earth.

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.

Image of the asteroid Ryugu released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency on Friday. Launched in 2014, Hayabusa2's goal was to rendezvous with the distant asteroid Ryugu, collect data and even chunks of material from it, and then return them to Earth.

That probe returned with dust samples from a smaller, potato-shaped asteroid in 2010, despite various setbacks during its epic seven-year odyssey and was hailed as a scientific triumph. Then Hayabusa2 will once again land on Ryugu - after successfully touching down on its surface in February when it fired a bullet into the asteroid - to retrieve more rock and soil samples.

NASA's Deep Impact project succeeded in creating an artificial crater on a comet in 2005, but only for observation purposes.

"But we still have more missions to achieve and it's too early for us to celebrate with 'banzai'".

The probe also sent three small rovers on Ryugu previous year with the aim of collecting additional samples and is scheduled to make more landings before starting its journey back to Earth, where it is due to arrive at the end of 2020. Japan's space agency says its spacecraft has released an explosive onto an asteroid to make a crater on its surface and collect underground samples to find possible clues to the origin of the solar system.

You can catch the feed of the operation in its entirety below.

Hayabusa2 released the SCI about 500 meters (1,640 feet) above Ryugu's surface around 11:13 a.m.

The agency hopes to gather underground samples of Ryugu, which could contain organic substances and water that could point to the origins of the solar system, Japan's Kyodo News reported. If all goes well, Hayabusa2 will return its treasures to Earth in 2020.