Let's shoot a bullet on an asteroid. This sounds like a plot point from a sci-fi show, but it is about to become reality when Japan's space agency JAXA controls its Hayabusa 2 spacecraft to capture a selection of an asteroid.
Hayabusa 2 arrived at the asteroid Ryugu in mid-201
from last fall after discovering Ryugy's surface was much rockier than expected. The new collection time for sampling is set for Friday, February 22 at. 08.00 CET. Japan time, which runs until Thursday, February 21 at. 15:00. Pacific Ocean in USA.
JAXA will broadcast live online from its control room with an English translation available.
The spacecraft's cylindrical sampler horn is designed to touch the surface of the asteroid, push a bullet into the rock, and then collect the fragments ejected by the impact.
The Hayabusa 2 team performed an experiment on Earth to see if the sampler is likely to work with Ryugge's gravel area. The test involved pushing a projectile into a simulated surface to mimic the asteroid. According to the results, the spacecraft system would work well.
The touchdown is still a daring operation. The space will have to avoid boulders, but still get close enough to reach the surface. If all goes well, Hayabusa 2 will return to Earth by the end of 2020 with a little asteroid on board for researchers to study.