Japan’s Hayabusa2 Blasts Asteroid Ryugu

Asteroid Ryugu with north polar boulder (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

After billions of years of being bombarded by cosmic debris, the Earth finally struck back on Friday.

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft bombed the asteroid Ryugu in an ambitious attempt to collect samples from beneath the rocky world’s surface. JAXA has confirmed that the orbiter is safe and sound following the operation. The space agency is still downloading images and data acquired during the operation.

Hayabusa2 launched its Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) at Ryugu. SCI is composed of a disk impactor made of copper that will be deformed by an explosion into a semi-spherical shell that will penetrate the asteroid’s surface.

Small Carry-on Impactor appearance (left) and cross-section (right).

“The SCI impact enables us to conduct sampling from the interior of the asteroid, so the sample will be recovered from the floor of the artificial crater or the surrounding area covered with the ejecta from the SCI artificial crater,” according to a scientific paper on SCI.

“The artificial crater will produce a new fresh surface that is expected not to be significantly suffered from space weathering,” the paper stated. “In addition to sampling, remote sensing from the space craft will be able to refer this fresh surface in order to recognize the degree of space weathering on other surfaces and also observe the subsurface structure on the crater wall.”

Overview of SCI operation plan.

JAXA said Hayabusa2 deployed its DCAM3 imager before the spacecraft retreated behind the asteroid for safety.