Crater Search Operation, (CRA2).
Credit: JAXA

Japan’s Hayabusa2 asteroid explorer deployed the Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) on April 5.

That successful operation involved a 4.4 pound (2 kilogram) copper mass that collided with asteroid Ryugu. The gravel released from the surface of Ryugu was photographed by the deployable camera, DCAM3.

However, the images from DCAM3 do not show how Ryugu’s surface has been altered by the impact. Hayabusa2 is now in a Crater Search Operation, (CRA2). The spacecraft is under command to descend and make observations in the vicinity of the SCI collision area.

Schematic diagram of the CRA2 operation. Credit: JAXA)

Low altitude

Hayabusa2 officials say the CRA2 operation took place from April 23 – 25, with preparation for the descent beginning on April 23.

That descent placed the spacecraft at the lowest altitude of roughly a mile (1.7 kilometers) above the space rock on April 25. The spacecraft has imaged the impact area, and is moving back to a home position.

Terrain changed

According to Hayabusa2 controllers, the exact size and shape of the artificial crater will be examined in detail in the future, but then can see that the terrain of an area about 66 feet (20 meters) wide has changed.

“We did not expect such a big alternation, so a lively debate has been initiated in the project!”

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