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8.25.19
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Japan Announces Plan to Bomb Asteroid

March 18th 19__Dan Robitzski__Filed Under: Off World
JAXA

Big Kaboom

Last Month, Japan’s robotic spacecraft Hayabusa2 landed on an asteroid. Now, the Japanese space agency, JAXA, says that Hayabusa2 will return with an explosive vengeance.

Next month, Hayabusa2 will drop a bomb on the asteroid and mine some of the exploded fragments, according to The Associated Press, blowing a huge crater in the space rock — which, no matter how you look at it, sounds pretty awesome.

Arms Race

When Hayabusa2 first touched down, it fired a small bullet at the surface of the asteroid, dislodging some dust and small rocks to be studied later. Now the spacecraft will ramp up its firepower, launching a bomb at the surface of the asteroid at just over a mile per second, which is expected to carve out a 32-foot-wide crater.

Afterwards, Hayabusa2 may visit the crater itself. But JAXA told the AP that it will prioritize the probe’s safety if landing in the crater would be too dangerous.

Digging Deeper

If the mission works, Japan’s Hayabusa2 will be the first spacecraft to mine subsurface materials from an asteroid.

While NASA fragmented a comet in 2005, it didn’t follow up by actually gathering the various chunks of space rock for study, reports the AP. Because Hayabusa2 will stick around after the big boom, the probe will have to quickly dart away from the explosion before coming back to collect the fragments.

“It will be very challenging,” JAXA engineer Takanao Saeki told the AP.

READ MORE: Japan to make crater on asteroid to get underground samples [The Associated Press]

More on Hayabusa2: New Video Shows Japanese Probe Shooting Asteroid With Bullet