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The Asteroid Ryugu seen by Hayabusa2 in September 2018. Photo: JAXA

Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully sent a bomb down to the surface of Asteroid Ryugu on Thursday, paving the way for scientific studies of the space rock's interior.

Why it matters: If the bomb did explode as expected, creating an artificial crater on the asteroid, scientists will be able to get a sense of what the rock is comprised of beyond just its irradiated surface. If the area is deemed safe, Hayabusa2 will move in to possibly land at or near the site of the artificial crater to collect a sample of the blasted material for eventual return to Earth next year.

Details: In order to protect the mothership from the blast, Hayabusa2 flew behind the asteroid after dropping the copper bomb, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), but a secondary camera was deployed in order to check out the moment the experiment — called the Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) — went off.

  • "After the start of the operation, the camera (DCAM3) separated from Hayabusa2 captured an image that shows ejection from Ryugu’s surface, which implies that the SCI had functioned as planned," JAXA said in a statement. "Hayabusa2 is operating normally. We will be providing further information once we have confirmed whether a crater has been created on Ryugu."
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Background: Hayabusa2 has been studying asteroid Ryugu since last year, after launching to the space rock in 2014. The hardworking space probe already collected one sample of the asteroid in February and made history in 2018 when it sent robotic probes to the surface. The spacecraft is designed to help scientists learn more about the origins of the solar system as asteroids are thought to be bits of debris left behind after the formation of the planets.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

4 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.