Japan just shot a copper cannonball at an asteroid



A rendering of Hayabusa2 at the asteroid Ryugu.


Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft has already fired a bullet at the asteroid Ryugu from close range to suck up a sample of the space rock. Now the mission has gone a step further by attempting to blast a new crater onto the surface of the object it’s been orbiting for months.

The Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) announced just before 8 p.m. PT Thursday that it fired its “small carry-on impactor” (SCI) at Ryugu. The SCI is a 2 kilogram (4.4 pound) lump of copper attached to Hayabusa2 that was shot toward Ryugu at a speed of 2 kilometers per second (4,474 miles per hour).

Several hours later, JAXA shared a photo showing debris ejected from the surface of the asteroid by the explosion. “This is the world’s first collision experiment with an asteroid,” the agency…

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