Tech by VICE

A Japanese Probe Bombed an Asteroid For the First Time in History

Hayabusa2 was launched with a five-gram bullet and an explosive, both meant for the Ryugu asteroid 200 million miles from Earth.

by Jordan Pearson
Apr 5 2019, 2:58pm

Author's depiction of the event. Liberties were taken. Images: Shutterstock, Pngpix.

Humanity just successfully bombed an asteroid for the first time in history.

According to a Friday press release from the Japanese space agency JAXA, the Hayabusa2 space probe launched in 2014 has completed the latest phase of its mission—deploying a small explosive to the surface of the asteroid Ryugu, located about 200 million miles from Earth.

The moment of impact was captured by a camera deployed by the probe, and the grainy image shows cosmic dust being kicked up by the bang.

1554475394011-20190405b_01
The impact. Image: JAXA

The goal of bombing Ryugu was to create an artificial crater that Hayabusa2 will later sample for scientists on Earth to analyze. Ryugu is a rather old and primordial asteroid, and the samples are expected to help “clarify the origin of life” in the universe, among other insights, according to JAXA.

Japan originally launched Hayabusa2 in 2014 with a handful of “bouncing” rovers and enough firepower to make John Wick blush. In addition to the Small Carry-on Impactor that the probe just deployed to Ryugu’s surface, Hayabusa2 was packing a five-gram tantalum bullet that it fired into the surface of the asteroid in early March.

So, not only has Hayabusa2 bombed an asteroid, it’s shot one too. That’s not a space probe you want to mess with.

Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.