Japan probe blasts asteroid seeking clues to life’s origins

6 April, 2019 12:00 AM printer

TOKYO: A Japanese probe on Friday launched an explosive device at an asteroid, aiming to blast a crater in the surface and scoop up material that could shed light on how the solar system evolved, reports AFP.

The explosive mission is the riskiest yet attempted by the Japanese space agency’s Hayabusa2 probe that aims to reveal more about the origins of life on Earth.

Hayabusa2 successfully released as scheduled the so-called “small carry-on impactor”—a cone-shaped device capped with a copper bottom—as the probe hovered just 500 metres (1,650 feet) above the asteroid Ryugu.

The impactor was programmed to explode 40 minutes later, propelling the copper bottom towards Ryugu, where it should gouge a crater into the surface of the asteroid that spins 300 million kilometres from Earth.

Hayabusa2 moved smartly away from the area to avoid being damaged by debris from the explosion or colliding with Ryugu while also releasing a camera to capture images of the event.

Images from a different camera at the bottom of the probe showed the impactor was released at the right position and angle.

Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa2 project manager, told reporters that the Japanese space agency (JAXA) was able to confirm the impactor hit the surface of the asteroid based on an image captured by the camera released by the probe.

“I think it’s a success. We could not have asked for more,” he said.