The Hayabusa2 probe from the Japanese space agency (JAXA) has dropped a bomb the size of a baseball on its object of study, the asteroid Ryugu, creating a crater of around ten meters in diameter.
It was a historical achievement and the spacecraft in charge made sure the moment would be remembered forever; Hyabusa2 retreated to a safe distance from the detonation and recorded everything on its camera (DCAM3).
This is the first footage the spacecraft sent back to Earth.
JAXA posted via Twitter the SCI after it was released from the spacecraft.
[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
The tweet below shows us the impact as seen from a safe distance.
[SCI] The deployable camera, DCAM3, successfully photographed the ejector from when the SCI collided with Ryugu’s surface. This is the world’s first collision experiment with an asteroid! In the future, we will examine the crater formed and how the ejector dispersed. pic.twitter.com/eLm6ztM4VX
Mission scientists explained on Twitter that “This is the world’s first collision experiment with an asteroid! In the future, we will examine the crater formed and how the ejector dispersed.”
The blast an eventual crater is part of Japan’s asteroid sample return mission. If everything goes according to plan, Hayabusa will lower down to the asteroid’s surface and recover samples that had remained deep inside the asteroid since the space rock’s formation.
It is noteworthy to mention that this isn’t the first time that the Hayabusa2 “attacked” the asteroid, which measures less than a kilometer in diameter.
Last February, the spacecraft fired a projectile at its surface to kick up fragments of rocks that were later collected in and secured into a special container. This was also recorded on camera, and you can see it again here.
We also expect that JAXA will release video footage of the event in the coming days.
Hayabusa 2 has been orbiting the asteroid Ryugu for several months. The spacecraft, launched in 2014, is carrying out a number of tests on the asteroid.
Hayabusa2 is due to return to Earth at the end of 2020 with samples collected from the Asteroid’s surface.
You can follow live mission updates, and see the spacecraft’s status in real time here.