Incredible video showing the moment the Hayabusa 2 Japanese space probe briefly bouncing on the surface of the Ryugu asteroid has been released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The footage shows the full 59 seconds during which Hayabusa 2 bounced off the surface of Ryugu. The clip is played at five times the cosmic event’s actual speed.
JAXA teased the video release with the tweet: “One small hand of mankind has reached for a new little star.”
Hayabusa 2 was travelling at 7 cm/s (0.15 mph) relative to the asteroid and fired a small probe at its surface to kick up debris.
This space dust is seen firing away from the 3,300ft (1km) wide asteroid, some of which was expected to be captured by the Hayabusa 2 sampling equipment.
Hayabusa 2’s on-board camera which captured the video was funded by public donations.
The Japanese spacecraft will attempt at least one more descent to asteroid Ryugu’s rocky surface before beginning the long journey back to Earth in December.
The disturbed asteroid debris collected by Hayabusa 2 will be returned to Earth for inspection, although it won’t land until 2020, when it lands in Australia.
It is hoped Hayabusa 2 will bring with it intact and protected samples of Ryugu’s surface – which is hoped will reveal the early formation of the universe.
Asteroid Ryugu is thought to be a remnant of the early solar system’s birth, so understanding it’s geology could provide vital clues to piece together the solar systems.
The historic collision occurred at 11pm GMT (6pm EST) on February 21 after a three-and-a-half year trip across the solar system.
Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, from Queen’s University in Belfast, revealed the samples it collects will illuminate our understanding about the early solar system and explain where Earth got its water.
Professor Fitzsimmons said: “We get information from the samples about what has happened to the asteroid since it formed, and test our theories of Solar System evolution.”
JAXA had to delay the descent to asteroid Ryugu for five hours, but the mission eventually went to plan.
Asteroid Ryugu is an ancient type of space rock known as a C-type, a space rock left over from the early days of the Solar System.
Ahead of its descent, Hayabusa 2 dropped a marker on to Ryugu to guide the spacecraft’s descent to its rocky surface.
Hayabusa 2 descended to Ryugu’s surface slowly and carefully to avoid any damage to the sampler horn from large rocks on the surface.
Hayabusa 2’s video revealed that rocks several centimetres in diameter were thrown-up into space.