TOKYO -- The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced on March 18 that its Hayabusa2 space probe will drop an explosive on the asteroid Ryugu on April 5 to create an artificial crater as part of an experiment to collect underground samples to seek possible clues to the origin of the solar system.
Hayabusa2 landed on the asteroid on Feb. 22 and JAXA officials say the probe has likely collected rock samples.
The probe is scheduled to detach a device loaded with explosives some 500 meters away from Ryugu. The device will set off the explosives using a timer some 40 minutes later and launch a copper "impactor" weighing about 2 kilograms into the asteroid's surface.
The target point is several hundreds of meters away from where the space probe first touched down. The mission will require the spacecraft to move quickly to the other side of the asteroid so it won't get hit by flying shards from the blast. A detached camera will shoot the moment of impact.
JAXA will analyze the size and shape of the crater, and how rocks fly off in a bid to collect underground samples for possible clues to the origin of the solar system.
Koji Wada, chief researcher of the Chiba Institute of Technology who is in charge of the analysis of the experiment, said, "I want to reveal the origin of heavenly bodies which repeatedly collided and broke up. I'm excited that we will be able to conduct this experiment on a real asteroid."
(Japanese original by Tomohiro Ikeda, Science & Environment News Department)