Japan's space probe operating on an asteroid some 340 million kilometers from Earth is preparing to study the asteroid's interior by creating an artificial impact crater.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, announced on Monday that the Hayabusa2 probe will attempt to create the crater on the asteroid, called Ryugu, on April 5.
Hayabusa2 successfully landed on the asteroid on February 22. JAXA officials say the probe has likely collected rock samples, as planned.
According to details provided by JAXA, the probe will detach a device called an "impactor" to a distance of about 500 meters from the asteroid.
The impactor will then descend 200 to 300 meters and fire a metallic object at the surface at a speed of over 7,000 kilometers per hour to create a small, crater-like indentation.
Hayabusa2 will have moved to the other side of the asteroid to avoid rocks and fragments of the impactor as it hits the surface.
JAXA says it will monitor the crater-like area with a camera and other equipment. If possible, a second probe landing on the asteroid will be attempted on or near the crater to collect samples of substances from inside the asteroid.
A senior official described the operation as the first attempt at such a difficult task, as the probe could be damaged from debris and flying rocks.