By Chase Hill / March 2, 2019

Japan Landed On an Asteroid and Shot a Bullet Into It

The team hopes to bring a sample of the asteroid back to Earth.

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Japan just landed on an asteroid and shot a bullet into it. (JAXA, University of Tokyo & collaborators)

Japan just landed on an asteroid and shot a bullet into it and they’ve shared a stunning image of the massive rock as the spacecraft shoves off to make the return journey home.

Last year, the spacecraft Hayabusa2 arrived at Ryugu, the asteroid that would soon have two tiny cookie-tin sized rovers dropped onto it, in hopes of collecting a sample.

Recently the spacecraft itself finally touched down on the massive space rock in an attempt to collect a sample for researchers to study back here on Earth.

Hayabusa2 shot a tantalum bullet into the asteroid to collect the sample. The bullet traveled at 984 feet per second and kicked up a ton of asteroid dust in the process which, scientists hope, will land in the spacecraft’s collection canister.

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Before and after of the area where Hayabusa2 touched down to collect an asteroid sample. (JAXA, University of Tokyo & collaborators)

The image reveals the shadow of the spacecraft cast on the asteroid after it collected the sample and left. The discoloration on the asteroid (image above, right) is probably due to the bullet firing, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said on their website, according to Science Alert.

Hayabusa2 will make two more touchdowns on the asteroid to collect samples before it makes it way home, arriving back to Earth sometime in December of this year.

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