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Japan to Drop Explosive to Make Crater on Asteroid to Collect Samples from Inside

Hayabusa2 made history on Feb. 22 when it successfully touched down on the boulder-rich asteroid, where it also collected some surface fragments

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FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2019, file photo, this image released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the shadow, center above, of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft after its successful touchdown on the asteroid Ryugu. VOA

Japan’s space agency said Monday that its Hayabusa2 spacecraft will follow up last month’s touchdown on a distant asteroid with another risky mission — to drop an explosive to make a crater and collect underground samples to get possible clues to the origin of the solar system.

Hayabusa2 made history on Feb. 22 when it successfully touched down on the boulder-rich asteroid, where it also collected some surface fragments.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Hayabusa2 is to drop a copper impactor the size of a baseball and weighing 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) on the asteroid on April 5 to collect samples from deeper underground where they had not been exposed to the sun or space rays.

The new mission will require an immediate evacuation of the spacecraft to the other side of the asteroid so it won’t get hit by flying shards from the blast, JAXA said. While moving away, Hayabusa2 will leave a camera to capture the outcome.

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JAXA has previously planned to have Hayabusa2 briefly touchdown in a crater, but an agency researcher, Takashi Kubota, said they may not force it to prioritize safety for the spacecraft. VOA

The mission will allow JAXA scientists to analyze details of a crater to find out the history of the asteroid, said Koji Wada, who is in charge of the project.

Hayabusa2 will start descending toward the asteroid the day before to carry out the mission from its home position of 20 kilometers (12 miles) above. It will drop a cone-shaped piece of equipment containing explosives that will blast off a copper plate on the bottom. It will turn into a ball and slam into the asteroid at the speed of 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) per second.

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JAXA has previously planned to have Hayabusa2 briefly touchdown in a crater, but an agency researcher, Takashi Kubota, said they may not force it to prioritize safety for the spacecraft. Kubota said it would be the first time a spacecraft would take materials from underground a space object.

The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is about 900 meters (3,000 feet) in diameter and about 300 million kilometers (180 million miles) from Earth. (VOA)

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Fukushima’s Nuclear Power Plant: Japan Begins Removing Fuel

The three units at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant melted down after a major earthquake, followed by a tsunami struck Japan in 2011, killing about 18 thousand people and forced the evacuation of areas near the plant.

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Tour guide Katsuaki Shiga, right, and a tourist check radiation levels at Joroku Park, near Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, in Namie town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, May 17, 2018. VOA

The operator of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant began removing fuel rods Monday from one of three reactors that melted down in 2011.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said workers started removing the first of the used and unused fuel units from a cooling pool at reactor 3.

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The three units at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant melted down after a major earthquake, followed by a tsunami struck Japan in 2011, killing about 18 thousand people and forced the evacuation of areas near the plant. Pixabay

The operation was was more than four years behind schedule, and had a short further delay Monday afternoon, after a problem with the equipment, but resumed after the mishap was addressed.

TEPCO has estimated that it will take up to two years to remove 566 of nuclear fuel rods from that reactor.

 

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After the cleaning operation at Unit 3, TEPCO expects to continue with the removal of 1000 nuclear fuel rods from the storage pools of reactors one and two. VOA

 

The work is being managed remotely from a control room about 500 meters away, because of high radiation level still present inside the building of Unit 3.

After the cleaning operation at Unit 3, TEPCO expects to continue with the removal of 1000 nuclear fuel rods from the storage pools of reactors one and two.

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The three units at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant melted down after a major earthquake, followed by a tsunami struck Japan in 2011, killing about 18 thousand people and forced the evacuation of areas near the plant. (VOA)