Watch a Japanese probe blast an asteroid

If there was ever any doubt that Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft was able to get access to samples from an asteroid called Ryugu last month, a video released today should put those doubts to rest.

The black-and-white video clip, shot by the probe’s CAM-H monitoring camera, shows the sampling horn being lowered to the sunlit surface. Hayabusa 2 creeps nearer and nearer to its shadow, and suddenly there’s a spray of debris as the probe fires a bullet made of tantalum and backs away.

“Rocks reaching sizes of several tens of centimeters in diameter were ejected,” the Hayabusa 2 team said today in a science status report. “Many chips of this released debris are flattened plate-shaped and appear to reach quite a high altitude.”

Hayabusa 2’s sampling horn is designed to capture some of that debris. “The potential for sample collection is high,” the team reported.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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