See Japan's Hayabusa2 use an asteroid as a trampoline

Impressive new footage shows the spacecraft firing a bullet at Ryugu, sending space debris flying.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
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Eric Mack
2 min read

Last month, the Japanese Space Agency's Hayabusa2 spacecraft touched down on the asteroid Ryugu. It landed just long enough to fire a bullet into the space rock to dislodge some little bits that were hopefully sucked up for transport back to Earth.

You can read all about the mission in our earlier coverage, but on Tuesday the space agency, also known as JAXA, released new video footage of the key moment.

The above video comes from Hayabusa2's small monitor camera, called CAM-H, which is positioned right above the long, cylindrical sampler horn that did the asteroid touching, shooting and sampling. You can see the craft descending into what seems to be a rock-strewn landing spot and then immediately ascending after firing the bullet to send bits of ancient cosmic cobble flying.


An image captured by Hayabusa2's small monitor camera moments after the spacecraft fired a bullet into Ryugu, dislodging large amounts of debris.


If the video seems jumpy, it's not your internet connection (or it's not just  your connection). The frame rate as the craft descends is only one frame every five seconds and then it increases to one or two frames per second at the moment of touchdown and firing. The video is also sped up by 5x. Still, the whole operation was pulled off in just a few minutes. 

During a press conference early Tuesday, JAXA said the touchdown appears to have collected a "sufficient sample."

The agency also said it's nicknamed the point where Hayabusa2 touched down "Tamatebako," which translates to "treasure box."

NASA is in the midst of its own asteroid-sampling mission, with its Osiris-Rex spacecraft now mapping the asteroid Bennu, which it plans to touch down on in 2020.

Watch this: Japan’s Hayabusa2 space probe fires bullet into asteroid

Hayabusa2 is far from done with Ryugu. Next up, JAXA plans to use a "small carry-on impactor" (SCI) aboard the spacecraft to create an artificial crater on the surface of the asteroid. Hayabusa2 will then attempt a second touchdown in or near the newly blasted crater. 

Hayabusa2's schedule has it attempting to blast a new mark into Ryugu as soon as the first week of April, followed by another touchdown attempt sometime after May.