Nearly 200 million miles away, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) says it successfully bombed an asteroid the size of a few city blocks Friday morning.
[SCI] This is an image taken with the wide angle optical navigation camera (ONC-W1) immediately after (few seconds) the separation of the SCI. The retroreflective sheet on the SCI glows white due the image being shot with a flash. This showed the separation was on schedule. pic.twitter.com/8FPWY470nI
— HAYABUSA2@JAXA (@haya2e_jaxa) April 5, 2019
This isn’t the first time scientists have sent spacecraft out to study asteroids. NASA launched the NEAR Shoemaker in 1996 where it chased down on the asteroid 433 Eros to study wat the space rock was made of.
The Hayabusa2, in this latest mission to the asteroid Ryugu JAXA, hopes to send back samples from the asteroid’s surface that could potentially shed light on the question of where life on earth came from.
JAXA launched the Hayabusa2 in 2014. It has been orbiting the small asteroid since June of last year.
Scientists successfully dropped two unmanned hopping rovers onto the surface to study the rock.
Friday’s explosion was conducted to create an artificial crater on the surface in an effort to collect samples to help understand the makeup of the asteroid.
The satellite dropped a small explosive box with a copper ball about the size of a baseball and then flew to the other side of the asteroid to protect itself from debris caused by the explosion.
“The mission was a success,” JAXA project manager Yuichi Tsuda said, beaming. “It is highly likely to have made a crater,” The Associated Press reported on Friday.
JAXA hopes to now collect a sample from the newly formed crater, and in a first, send them back to earth. If all goes well, the samples are planned to return in the next few years.
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