Hayabusa-2: Movie shows moment of asteroid landing


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Media captionA camera captures the moment Hayabusa-2 touches down on an asteroid

A movie captured by Japan’s Hayabusa-2 spacecraft shows the moment it touched down on an asteroid.

The probe was attempting to grab a sample of rock from the 1km-wide body known as Ryugu, on 21 February (GMT).

The footage shows dusty fragments lifting up as the spacecraft fires a “bullet” at 300m/s into the surface.

Hayabusa-2 has been exploring Ryugu since its arrival in June 2018, following a three-and-a-half-year journey from Earth.

During sample collection, the spacecraft approached the asteroid with an instrument called the sampler horn, which can be seen on the right in the screen.

Then, on touchdown, a 5g projectile made of the metal tantalum is fired into the rocky surface.

The idea was for particles kicked up by the impact to be taken up the horn.

The full outline of the spacecraft can be seen in shadow on Ryugu’s surface as the spacecraft ascends, following completion of the sample-grab operation.

The near-Earth asteroid Ryugu is a primitive relic from the early days of the Solar System.

Studying objects such as this one could shed light on the origin and evolution of our own planet.

Hayabusa-2 had dropped a small, reflective, beanbag-like “target marker” on to Ryugu. This was used as a guide as the spacecraft descended to the rough surface of the asteroid.

Controllers had been aiming for the centre of a circle, some 6m in diameter, located about 4-5m away from the target marker.

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