Categories: world

Hayabusa2 Spacecraft Blasts Artificial Crater in Asteroid Ryugu's Surface

This Oct. 25, 2018 image by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows asteroid Ryugu. Image: JAXA (AP) Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft has yet another intense mission: It used an explosive to blast a crater in the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. This success comes after the probe briefly touched down on the asteroid in February, firing a tantalum bullet into the surface in hops or kicking up debris. On Thursday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Hayabusa2 deployed its Small Carry-On Impactor Operation (SCI) to create an artificial crater that will then be able to study. The JAXA team hopes this will allow them to observe how craters form in general on the asteroid. This was a complex, multi-part experiment, and a process that totaled down to a critical window of about 40 minutes. path of potential debris. According to the Planetary Society, this essentially involved scouting sideways before dipping down so that it was situated somewhat behind Ryugu During the evacuation process, the spacecraft released its Deployable Camera 3 (DCAM3), which captured the action from about a kilometer away. As you can see in the tweeted image above, the SCI indeed kicked up debris after colliding with Ryugu. DCAM3 is equipped with two cameras, one high-resolution digital camera and one low-resolution analog camera that should beam back images in real time. Along with studying the aftermath of the artificial crater created by the impactor, Hayabusa2 might also be able to collect a sub-surface sample. Ahead of Thursday's blast attempt, scientists…

This Oct. 25, 2018 image by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows asteroid Ryugu. Image: JAXA (AP)

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft has yet another intense mission: It used an explosive to blast a crater in the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. This success comes after the probe briefly touched down on the asteroid in February, firing a tantalum bullet into the surface in hops or kicking up debris.

On Thursday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Hayabusa2 deployed its Small Carry-On Impactor Operation (SCI) to create an artificial crater that will then be able to study. The JAXA team hopes this will allow them to observe how craters form in general on the asteroid. This was a complex, multi-part experiment, and a process that totaled down to a critical window of about 40 minutes.

path of potential debris. According to the Planetary Society, this essentially involved scouting sideways before dipping down so that it was situated somewhat behind Ryugu

During the evacuation process, the spacecraft released its Deployable Camera 3 (DCAM3), which captured the action from about a kilometer away. As you can see in the tweeted image above, the SCI indeed kicked up debris after colliding with Ryugu. DCAM3 is equipped with two cameras, one high-resolution digital camera and one low-resolution analog camera that should beam back images in real time.

Along with studying the aftermath of the artificial crater created by the impactor, Hayabusa2 might also be able to collect a sub-surface sample.

Ahead of Thursday’s blast attempt, scientists had a fairly rough estimate or how big a crater the explosive could produce. While some models put the width of the crater at around 10 meters, the target location for the impact had a 200-meter margin of error that accounted for different surface types, according to Planetary Society. We’re still waiting for updates from JAXA to learn more about the newly created crater.

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the Japanese unmanned spacecraft Hayabusa2 approaching the asteroid Ryugu in February. Image: JAXA (AP)

Hayabusa2 rendezvoused with Ryugu in June 2018 following a four-year journey, and it has spent the last year carrying out all kinds of experiments. In addition to deploying MINERVA-II rovers and the MASCOT lander, the spacecraft in February completed one of its biggest mission goals: touching down and firing a bullet into the asteroid’s surface, in heaps of kicking up debris that could be collected as samples and brought back to Earth

We do not know whether the probe managed to snatch up samples until it returns to Earth in late 2020.

Hayabusa2 is not the only spacecraft currently studying a near-Earth asteroid. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is currently visiting the asteroid Bennu. If all goes according to plan, the NASA spacecraft will collect its own samples and bring them back to Earth in 2023.

[JAXA, Planetary Society]
Share
Published by
Faela