A Japanese spacecraft deployed a heavy, explosive-packed copper plate toward the asteroid Ryugu in an attempt to create an artificial crater last night (April 4), but it's still unclear how the dramatic operation went.
Meanwhile, the information, scientists hope to get after studying the asteroid's debris, might give them insight into not only the asteroid but also our planet and solar system.
If successful, it would be the first time for a spacecraft to take such materials. In a similar mission in 2005, NASA blasted the surface of a comet but never recovered the fragments.
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. While moving away, Hayabusa2 also left a camera to capture the outcome.
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.
Asteroid Ryugu is a space rock of just under 3,000 feet, situated at about 195 million miles from Earth. After meeting up in deep space, Hayabusa 2 began mapping the surface of Ryugu to develop a plan of attack.
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.
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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.
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.
Because the impact of the copper mass could send up floating debris from Ryugu that could smack into the space probe, Hayabusa 2 will ascend to an altitude of about 20 km over a two-week period. If they can identify a suitable site, they will then land Hayabusa2 in or near the crater to collect samples.
The probe is loaded with four surface landers, an array of cameras and even an explosive device that will dig out subsurface rock samples.
Hayabusa Two is expected to return to Earth in late 2020 carrying samples for further analysis.