Japan's Hayabusa 2 takes off to blow a hole on an asteroid

No, there is no asteroid hurtling down towards earth, so no need to break out into an Aerosmith song just yet. The Japanese space agency JAXA has just launched its Hayabusa2 explorer Wednesday to embark on a six-year journey of exploration, research, and blowing up a creator on an asteroid's face. The created crater will allow the ship to gather rock materials inside the crater for further study back on earth, without causing the asteroid to actually start hurtling towards a planet, like Earth.

Not that the planned explosion will be massive anyway JAXA is planning only to create a hole that is a few meters in diameter, like small wart on the asteroid's face. Comets and asteroids are a fascination for scientists because they potentially hold clue to the beginnings of our planet. In the case of asteroids though, pristine materials are more likely to be found beneath the surface, protected from the harsh effects of space environment and direct sunlight. Hence the need for blowing up holes.

Hayabusa2's journey won't be a simple one and JAXA has alloted six years for the whole enterprise. They calculated that it will arrive at its destination around 2018. It will then deploy a small device that will shoot a projectile that will blow up the crater while Hayabusa2 itself hides behind the asteroid. It will spend 18 months there collecting and studying samples, after which it will begin its trek home, returning by late 2020.

The launch was a culmination of a project that has been a year in the making. October last year, JAXA made a successful firing of its "space cannon", with the intent of arming the Hayabusa2 with that crater-making weapon. Of course, as that number implies, this is not their first time. The first Hayabusa completed its mission in 2010, similarly exploring a different asteroid but only reaching surface level. Hayabusa2 is intended to go deeper and hopefully return with more clues to the origin of Earth's seawater and ultimately of life.