first_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe By Dennis NormileApr. 5, 2019 , 12:40 PM A Japanese spacecraft may have just blown a crater in a distant asteroid Japan’s Hayabusa2 mission continued its unprecedented explorations today by apparently creating an artificial crater in an asteroid, a space exploration first. Officials confirmed that the operation to fire a projectile into asteroid Ryugu went smoothly, though as of early evening Japan time they were still trying to confirm whether a crater had actually been formed. If so, its exact location and size will have to be confirmed later.Developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science in Sagamihara, Hayabusa2 was launched in December 2014 and traveled 3.2 billion kilometers through space before reaching its home position 20 kilometers away from Ryugu, a diamond-shaped asteroid about 1 kilometer by 900 meters in size orbiting between Earth and Mars.The mission’s objective is to collect samples both from Ryugu’s surface and its interior and return them to Earth for analyses that should yield information on the materials that existed in the early solar system and give clues about the formation and evolution of planets. The samples might also provide evidence for the theory that asteroids and comets are one source of Earth’s water and its amino acids, the building blocks of life. Scientists are particularly eager to get material from beneath the surface that has not been affected by eons of space weathering. Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) An artist’s impression shows a projectile hitting asteroid Ryugu, with a small satellite carrying two cameras in the foreground.center_img JAXA In February, Hayabusa2 briefly landed on Ryugu and fired a tantalum pellet into the surface that likely knocked about 10 grams of rock fragments into a collection horn. Getting subsurface material is more of a challenge. Landing on and drilling into the asteroid was logistically impractical, mission planners concluded. They also rejected using explosives to blast a crater, as that would contaminate the samples. They settled on shooting a nonexplosive, 2-kilogram copper projectile into Ryugu from space, by detonating explosives on a tiny, 14-kilogram spacecraft dubbed the Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI).Earlier today, Hayabusa2 descended to 500 meters above the asteroid and released the SCI. The mothership moved away laterally and about 19 minutes later released another tiny satellite carrying two cameras to record the projectile’s impact. The craft then continued to the far side of Ryugu to be shielded from any debris from the SCI explosion and from the crater.The SCI carried 9.5 kilograms of a plastic explosive packed into a conical chamber capped at the base by a saucer-shaped plate of copper. A timer on the SCI was set to give Hayabusa2 40 minutes to reach safety before triggering the explosive. The force of the explosion was expected to punch the copper plate into a bullet-nosed missile about the size of a baseball that would hit the asteroid traveling at about 2000 meters per second. The resulting crater could be several meters in diameter, depending on the characteristics of the asteroid’s rock. Images and data from Hayabusa2 indicate the separation of SCI and the camera to observe the impact went smoothly, mission manager Makoto Yoshikawa reported at an afternoon press briefing. Further data from the spacecraft indicate that it was not hit by any debris and is operating normally as it moves to its home station 20 kilometers from the asteroid. As of late Friday evening Japan time, mission officials were analyzing images from the deployed camera to confirm whether the crater was created.Mission controllers will wait until the week of 22 April for debris to settle and then send Hayabusa2 back to examine the crater remotely. If they can identify a suitable site, they will then land Hayabusa2 in or near the crater to collect samples. The craft could make a third touchdown to collect more samples from the surface. If all goes well, Hayabusa2 will return its treasures to Earth in 2020. Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Emaillast_img read more