TOKYO, Japan — A rocket carrying a probe that will blow a crater in a remote asteroid in hopes of gathering clues about the origin of Earth was successfully launched Wednesday by Japan’s space agency. The H-IIA rocket is carrying the agency’s latest unmanned asteroid probe, Hayabusa 2, which will be fired onto the surface of the asteroid to create an artificial crater. JAXA hopes the crater will yield samples less weathered by the space environment underneath the asteroid's surface, materials that are more organic, and possibly even water.
The design and configuration of the spacecraft is based on the original Hayabusa which became the first mission bring back asteroid samples back to earth in 2010. The new version however incorporates an improved engine and also new antennas to communicate with Earth. The Hayabusa 2 is expected to reach its target asteroid in 2018 and return to Earth with its samples, in December of 2020.
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