Japan’s Hayabusa2 shot an asteroid last night

By | Published: February 21, 2019 | Last updated on May 18, 2023

Hayabusa 2 touched down on Ryugu at the location indicated by the red arrow.

Far from Earth, a tiny spacecraft punched an asteroid last night.

Hayabusa2 swooped close to Ryugu today to collect asteroid dust. The JAXA spacecraft had spent the previous day leaving its usual orbit around the asteroid to zoom in close. After just a few hours, it flew in low enough to touch Ryugu before darting away again.

It didn’t stay long. The touchdown was more of a quick tag, and Hayabusa2 stayed just long enough to fire a tiny bullet into the asteroid’s surface, in order to stir up material.

Because Ryugu is so tiny (less than half a mile across), with hardly any gravity, even this small blow should have kicked up enough space dust for Hayabusa2 to collect – hopefully – about 0.4 ounce (10 grams) of material into the horn that hangs from its underside.

An hour after the planned maneuver, engineers reported that the command to shoot the projectile had gone off successfully, and that the spacecraft was departing the asteroid as planned and reporting in normally. Hayabusa2 should be back on its normal orbit around Ryugu by tomorrow. 

You can check out JAXA’s live feed of the event below.