A mere weeks after the ESA successfully landed the Philae lander on a comet, Japan launched a probe of its own that is also destined for an asteroid.
The mission is set to take six years, and cost approximately 31 billion yen (260 million dollars) according to a report by Discovery News. The probe, named Hayabusa-2, launched from Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan aboard Japan’s H-IIA rocket. Hayabusa-2 discharged from H-IIA at the start of the mission, where it entered the intended orbit. In order to actually start moving towards the asteroid, the probe will use Earth’s gravity to push it forward.
This launch is a huge victory for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) who were seen clapping when the rocket reached space. Space exploration is advancing all around the world, and many congratulated the organization across social media. The asteroid Hayabusa-2 is set for is the 1999JU3 asteroid in deep space. The craft is planned to reach the asteroid in the middle of 2018, where it will spend 18 months before starting its return.
If all goes according to plan, the probe will blast a crater in the asteroid upon its first arrival. This will allow the probe to collect data samples that are largely untouched by the elements, such as wind and radiation. Scientists hope that these samples will help shed some light on questions regarding the universe as well as the existence of life. While on the asteroid, the probe will also drop MINERVA-II rover robots as well as a French-German landing package named Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) to better survey the surface. Scientists hope that the samples will be returned to Earth sometime during 2020. This would be a very important find, as the carbonaceous asteroid is believed to contain organic matter and water, both of which are needed to create life.