The Japanese Space Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft has detonated a bomb on the surface of primitive asteroid Ryugu to create an artificial crater.
"The metal bullet hit the surface of the Ryugu asteroid and there was an outburst of materials," said Yuichi Tsuda, associate professor at JAXA.
JAXA Mission Control video streamed the mission via YouTube. The agency will confirm if the blast had successfully created a crater by late April and the probe is set to land on the asteroid in May.
Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 has been observing Ryugu since June 2018. On April 5, it deployed a Small Carry-On Impactor device or SCI filled with explosive on the asteroid's rocky terrain.
Hayabusa2 separated the SCI device 500 meters above Ryugu's surface after descending from its home position located more than 12 miles (20 kilometers) away. The impactor head landed close to the targeted area where it attempted to carve a crater near the equator.
The mission used a copper projectile device that intends to blast a hole measuring 10 meters wide on the asteroid. It was fired toward Ryugu at a speed of 4,500 miles per hour or 2 kilometers per second.
As the impact will likely expose the asteroid's underground structure, scientists will be able to gather fresh samples and information about the strength of Ryugu's surface layer.
"We will try to find that artificial crater two weeks later, by descending to a lower altitude and making extensive observations," added Tsuda.
Collecting Samples From Ryugu
Last February, JAXA already blasted a smaller bullet-like projectile device into the asteroid's surface during a brief touch down. The mission was declared successful, but the collected samples from the cloud of debris have been exposed to the solar system's weather.
Hayabusa2 will gather new samples, and scientists will compare materials from beneath the asteroid's surface with surface crumbs collected in the previous mission.
Pristine rock samples from the new SCI mission will also help scientists study the asteroid's geological history.
Relic From The Past
According to JAXA, the Hayabusa2 probe aims to clarify the origin and evolution of the solar system as well as life matter. Since Hayabusa2 started its probe of Ryugu, the spacecraft has deployed three bouncing rovers that collected orbital photos of the ancient asteroid.
Ryugu, which is a C-type asteroid, is believed to be a primordial celestial body that contains more organic or hydrated minerals. Hayabusa2 will study samples recovered from Ryugu to analyze the organic matter and water in the solar system and how they coexist while affecting each other.
Hayabusa2 will leave the asteroid by the end of 2019 and is scheduled to return to Earth by mid-2020.