Japan's Hayabusa2 space probe started Friday the first step of an experiment to shoot a projectile onto the Ryugu asteroid to create an artificial crater, part of its mission to explore the origin of life and the evolution of the solar system, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said, Kyodo reports.
The probe plans to land and collect from the crater subsurface samples of the asteroid, which is believed to contain organic substances and water with remnants of the primitive solar system.
Hayabusa2 separated the small carry-on impactor 500 meters above the asteroid's surface after starting its descent Thursday from its home position 20 kilometers away.
The impactor will detonate 40 minutes after separation, shooting a 2-kilogram copper "impact head" into the designated area at a velocity of 2 kilometers per second to create the crater by collision.
After releasing a camera to capture images of the projectile impact, the probe will move behind the asteroid to escape the debris caused by the detonation and the projectile's impact. It will later return to the position above the impact area to capture close-up images.
The impact experiment's success will only be confirmed in late April. The probe is expected to land on Ryugu in May to collect underground materials from the crater.
It will also study the inside structure of the asteroid by observing the surface before and after the projectile collision, as well as acquire data necessary for planetary collision science, according to JAXA.
Launched in December 2014 from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan, Hayabusa2 reached Ryugu last June after traveling 340 million kilometers.
It touched down in February to collect surface samples and it found hydrated minerals that will help scientists determine whether asteroids brought water to Earth as hypothesized.
Hayabusa2 is due to return to Earth at the end of 2020.
Source: Kazinform News Agency
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