TOKIO, Japan. The Japanese Space Agency said the explosion that fell on Friday from its Hayabusa2 aircraft successfully destroyed the surface of the asteroid for the first time to create a crater and a road to gathering underground patterns for possible traces of the solar system.
The mission on Friday was the most risky for Hayabusa2 because it had to move away immediately so as not to hit the flying scrap of the explosion.
The Japanese Aviation Research Agency, or JAXA, said Hayabusa2 dropped a small explosive box that sent a copper balloon sized baseball bump into the asteroid, and the data confirmed that the aircraft had safely evacuated and remained untouched. JAXA later confirmed the impact of the images sent from the camera left by the aircraft that showed that the impact head was released and fine particles later splashed on tens of meters from a place on the asteroid.
"The mission was successful," said project leader JAXA Yuichi Tsuda. "It is very likely that he made a crater."
JAXA is planning to send Hayabus2, which is moved to the other side of the asteroid, back to the place after the dust and remains settled for observation and collecting material samples from a new crater that was not exposed to sun or space rays. Scientists are hoping that their samples will help to understand the history of the Solar System, as asteroids are left behind through the material from its creation.
Such samples were not found. In the 2005 "deep strike" mission to the comet, NASA watched the fragments after the surface explosion but did not collect them.
Last month, JAXA announced that a group of scientists participating in the Hayabusa2 mission discovered minerals containing hydroxyl on the asteroid by analyzing spectrometer readings near the infrared spectrum. It was said that this could explain where water came from Earth. The results were published in the online edition of Science.
"So far, Hayabusa2 has done everything planned, and we are delighted," said Makoto Yoshikawa, leader of the mission Friday. "But we still have more mission to achieve and it's too early for the celebration."
In February, Hayabusa2 hit a small area on the asteroid that was plastered with stone and collected surface dust and small residues. The vessel should leave the asteroid in late 2019 and bring surface fragments and ground patterns back to Earth in late 2020.
The asteroid, named Ryugu after a submarine palace in the Japanese folk tale, is about 300 million kilometers from Earth.