Japanese spacecraft successfully blasts crater in asteroid

Watch: Japan's Hayabusa-2 Is 'Bombing' Asteroid Ryugu to Make a Crater

The SCI is actually a self-contained launching platform with a shaped HMX explosive charge that propels the impactor at 2 kilometers per second.

After dropping the impactor, Hayabusa-2 had 40 minutes in which to hide away on the other side of the asteroid to shield itself from any blasted off debris. The aim of the SCI phase is to analyze the asteroid's underlying structure, collect some samples, and learn about the solar system's past.

In February, it studied the asteroid's surface, collecting dust and small fragments.

The crater could be as large as 10 meters in diameter if the surface is sandy, or three meters across if it is rocky, according to JAXA scientists.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or Jaxa, said it had confirmed Hayabusa2 dropped a "small carry-on impactor" made of copper onto the asteroid on Friday morning.

This Feb. 22, 2019, file image released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the shadow, center above, of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft after its successful touchdown on the asteroid Ryugu.

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The Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 has launched an explosive device at the asteroid it is exploring, aiming to create an artificial crater and take a look inside.

It'll be a few more weeks until the team goes hunting for the crater, with the search operation set to begin the week of April 22.

Kubota said the probe's use of explosives and its "acrobatic" evasive maneuvers were "unprecedented" and he hoped the mission would give scientists a rare peek inside an asteroid. In a 2005 "deep impact" mission to a comet, NASA observed fragments after blasting the surface but did not collect them. While evacuating to the safe zone, the probe also released a camera to observe the impactor's operation. 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.

'So far, Hayabusa2 has done everything as planned, and we are delighted, ' said mission leader Makoto Yoshikawa. It was meant to carve out a 10 metre-wide hole in the asteroid after it was sacked toward Ryugu's surface at up to 2 kilometres per second (4,500 miles per hour).

Hayabusa2 is scheduled to leave the asteroid at the end of the year and return to Earth with underground samples by the end of 2020.

"But we still have more missions to achieve and it's too early for us to celebrate with 'banzai'". The probe has a sample-return container, which JAXA plans to launch back to Earth in the coming months.

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