Japanese space explorer to blow crater in asteroid

December 3, 2014
An H2-A rocket carrying space explorer Hayabusa2, lifts off from a launching pad at Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima, southern Japan, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. The Japanese space explorer was launched Wednesday on a six-year roundtrip journey to blow a crater in a remote asteroid and collect samples from inside in hopes of gathering clues to the origin of earth. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

A Japanese space explorer took off Wednesday on a six-year journey to blow a crater in a remote asteroid and bring back rock samples in hopes of gathering clues to the origin of Earth.

The explorer, named Hayabusa2, is expected to reach the asteroid in mid-2018, spend about 18 months studying it and return in late 2020.

A small device will separate from the explorer and shoot a projectile to blast open a crater a few meters (several feet) in diameter. The explorer, which will hide behind the asteroid during the blast, will then try to collect material from inside the crater.

Asteroids can provide evidence not available on Earth about the birth of the solar system and its evolution. JAXA, Japan's space agency, said the research could help explain the origin of seawater and how the planet earth was formed.

Hayabusa2 will attempt to expand on the work of Hayabusa, a previous explorer that returned in 2010 after collecting material from the surface of another asteroid. By reaching inside an asteroid this time, the new explorer may recover material that is not as weathered by the space environment and heat.

The earlier mission was plagued by mechanical failures and other problems. JAXA hopes improvements since then will make this trip smoother.

"The mission was completed one way or another, but we stumbled along the way," said Akitaka Kishi of JAXA's lunar and planetary exploration program. "To travel there and bring back something is extremely difficult."

An H2-A rocket carrying space explorer Hayabusa2, lifts off from a launching pad at Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima, southern Japan, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. The Japanese space explorer was launched Wednesday on a six-year roundtrip journey to blow a crater in a remote asteroid and collect samples from inside in hopes of gathering clues to the origin of earth. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

Hayabusa2, which was launched from Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan, is a rectangular unit with two sets of solar panels sticking out from its sides.

Explore further: Japan again delays launch of asteroid probe

Related Stories

Bad weather delays Japan asteroid probe lift off

November 28, 2014

Bad weather will delay the launch of a Japanese space probe on a six-year mission to mine a distant asteroid, just weeks after a European spacecraft's historic landing on a comet captivated the world.

Rosetta begins descending to comet 67P (WATCH LIVE)

November 12, 2014

Hundreds of millions of miles from Earth, a speeding European spacecraft released a lander toward the icy, dusty surface of a comet on Wednesday, setting off a seven-hour countdown to an audacious attempt to answer some of ...

Recommended for you

Solar minimum surprisingly constant

November 17, 2017

Using more than a half-century of observations, Japanese astronomers have discovered that the microwaves coming from the sun at the minimums of the past five solar cycles have been the same each time, despite large differences ...

Lava or not, exoplanet 55 Cancri e likely to have atmosphere

November 16, 2017

Twice as big as Earth, the super-Earth 55 Cancri e was thought to have lava flows on its surface. The planet is so close to its star, the same side of the planet always faces the star, such that the planet has permanent day ...

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Dec 03, 2014
A Japanese space explorer took off Wednesday on a six-year journey to blow a crater in a remote asteroid

...to boldly blow up stuff where no one has blown up stuff before.
LariAnn
1 / 5 (1) Dec 03, 2014
Seems that various space agencies around the world are spending large amounts of money to find "evidence" or "clues" to the origin of Earth and/or the solar system. In terms of space exploration, I see what appears to be an obsession with what might have happened millions or billions of years ago, and little or no interest in what is happening right now. I'd love for someone to give me a cogent, logical explanation as to why this particular objective warrants so much expenditure of resources at this point in human development. On the surface, it seems to be a lot of money spent simply to satisfy the curiosity of a small minority of scientists. For the great majority of humanity, it would seem to make little or no difference in their lives or the lives of foreseeable generations to come. Why not save the big space exploration money for discoveries that will help humanity here and now?
dramamoose
not rated yet Dec 03, 2014
Why not both, Lari? The creation of the solar system is incredibly important in understanding how other solar systems form, which helps us answer a whole bunch of questions about the probability of life elsewhere, and where we might look for it.

As for the here and now, we've got New Horizons, Juno and MAVEN, all of which are going to return new data.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.