Recently released footage by the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) shows the exact moment when a small explosive device was launched from its Hayabusa2 spacecraft onto the surface of asteroid Ryugu, located more than 300 Million kilometers away.
On April 4, the spacecraft executed the commands sent to it by mission specialists. It released a baseball-sized explosive device (the SCI–Small Carry-on Impactor) that impacted the asteroid, creating a crater of around ten meters in diameter.
Now, twenty days later, JAXA decided to release the footage to the public, showing the exact moment the bomb is launched towards the asteroid from the spacecraft orbiting it.
The Hayabusa2 spacecraft has been analyzing the asteroid for more than a year while carrying out a number of scientific studies.
Not long ago, the spacecraft briefly landed on the asteroid and fired a projectile into it. The dust and soil that were kicked up after the projectile’s impact were then collected by the spacecraft.
The newly-created crater on Ryugu is expected to have exposed underground surface material that has remained unaffected by the harsh conditions of space.
The newly-released footage shows the impactor as it is released by the spacecraft, making its way towards the asteroid’s surface.
Before the projectile exploded, the Hayabusa2 probe moved away from the area and hid from potential debris kicked up after the explosion. As the spacecraft moved to the other side of the asteroid, it left its camera pointing towards the impact in order to record the outcome.
This video shows the descent of the SCI (Small Carry-on Impactor) made from images captured at 2 second intervals just after separation from Hayabusa2 by the onboard TIR (Thermal Infrared Camera). In the background, you can see the surface of Ryugu 500m away. pic.twitter.com/O5niPDb2XI
“So far, Hayabusa2 has done everything as planned, and we are delighted,” explained mission leader Makoto Yoshikawa.
“But we still have more missions to achieve and it’s too early for us to celebrate with Banzai.”
Hayabusa 2, which launched in December 2014, will remain in orbit around Ryugu at least until November. It is expected to attempt and collect a few more samples of the asteroid before returning with the samples to Earth, where scientists eagerly await to study the alien materials.
The materials gathered from the asteroid could provide unprecedented info not only about the asteroid but our planet and the solar system as well.
If the mission is successful, it would be the first time a spacecraft manages to travel to an asteroid, collect surface samples, and return them back to Earth.