Japan's space agency says its Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully dropped an explosive designed to make a crater on an asteroid and collect its underground samples to find possible clues to the origin of the solar system. Friday's crater mission was the riskiest for Hayabusa2, as it had to immediately get away to avoid being hit by flying shards from the blast, the AP reports. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, says Hayabusa2 dropped a "small carry-on impactor" made of copper onto the asteroid Friday morning, and data confirmed the spacecraft safely evacuated and remained intact. JAXA is analyzing data to examine if or how the impactor made a crater.
JAXA plans to send Hayabusa2 back to the site later, when the dust and debris settle, for observations from above and to collect samples from underground that have not been exposed to the sun or space rays. Scientists hope the samples will be crucial to determine the history of the asteroid and our planet. If successful, it would be the first time for a spacecraft to take such materials. In a 2005 "deep impact" mission to a comet, NASA observed fragments after blasting the surface but did not collect them. "So far, Hayabusa2 has done everything as planned, and we are delighted," says mission leader Makoto Yoshikawa. "But we still have more missions to achieve and it's too early for us to celebrate with 'banzai.'"
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