Engineers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency say they have successfully tested a next-generation asteroid explorer, called Hayabusa-2. It will launch next year to collect samples from within an asteroid and bring them back to Earth. The device will create an artificial crater on an asteroid so that stone and sand samples can be collected from beneath the surface.
Hayabusa 2 is designed to study the asteroid called 1999 JU3 from multiple angles, using remote-sensing instruments, a lander and a rover.
“Hayabusa2” is the successor to “Hayabusa”, which revealed several new technologies and returned to Earth in June 2010. Scientists hope to solve the issue which limited the load of asteroid rock fragments that could be carried home by the preceding mission. Testing is ongoing, especially of the bullet-like object which will create the crater on the asteroid’s surface.
Takanao Saiki Jaxa, one of the scientists on the project told euronews: “The speed of the device is over 2,000 meters per second and the configuration is exactly as we had planned. We are very satisfied with the result of the test. By making an artificial crater, we may be able to obtain a substance that will provide new insights.”
Scientists expect the Hayabusa 2 samples to hold a record of the chaotic early phases of the solar system’s formation, including the basic building blocks of life such as amino acids. If all goes to plan, the first samples are set to arrive on Earth in 2020.