Japanese space probe drops 'impactor' on asteroid Ryugu

Watch: Japan's Hayabusa-2 Is 'Bombing' Asteroid Ryugu to Make a Crater

Japan probe drops explosive on asteroid

Tonight, the Hayabusa-2 will engage in this "crater operation" (April 4 in the USA 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.

Image of the asteroid Ryugu released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency on Friday.

The copper explosive was the size of a baseball and weighed 2 kilogrammes on Earth.

It was created to come out of a cone-shaped piece of equipment.

JAXA plans to send Hayabusa2 back to the site later, when the dust and debris settle, for observations from above and to collect samples from underground that have not been exposed to the sun or space rays.

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.

If successful, it would be the first time for a spacecraft to take such materials. But Ryugu's surface has weathered through the impact of solar wind, making it necessary to dig deep to collect such materials.

"We are thrilled to see what will happen when the impactor collides with the asteroid", Takashi Kubota, engineering researcher at the Japanese space agency (JAXA), told reporters earlier this week.

In this handout photograph taken and released by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on April 4, 2019, researchers and employees receive data in the control room in Sagamihara, which confirms the Hayabusa2 probe started descending towards the target asteroid. Friday's mission is the riskiest for Hayabusa2, as it has to immediately get away so it won't get hit by flying shards from the blast.

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While moving quickly away to the other side of the asteroid, Hayabusa2 also left a camera to capture the outcome.

"So far, Hayabusa2 has done everything as planned, and we are delighted", mission leader Makoto Yoshikawa said earlier Friday.

The mission's Twitter account confirmed the spacecraft did not encounter any problems during the evacuation, adding in its most recent update that the mission was "steadily progressing".

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.

As for Hayabusa-2, it's expected to make its return to Earth sometime between November and December, with landing set for late-2020.

The impactor was programmed to explode 40 minutes later, propelling the copper bottom towards Ryugu, where it should gouge a crater into the surface of the asteroid that spins 300 million kilometres from Earth.

JAXA says it has confirmed Hayabusa2 safely evacuated and remained intact after the blast. The spacecraft dropped two tiny hopping rovers onto the asteroid's boulder-strewn surface in late September, for example, then put a 22-lb.

Jaxa's Hayabusa Two probe is on a mission to study the ancient asteroid Ryugu in a bid to help scientists better understand the origins of the universe.

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