TOKYO, December 3 (Sputnik) – Japan has launched H-2A rocket carrying Hayabusa 2, a robotic spacecraft designed to collect samples from an asteroid and return the material to Earth.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) broadcasted a live launch report from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan.
The mission’s target is asteroid 1999 JU3, a space rock that is thought to contain water and organic material. Hayabusa 2 is expected to arrive at the target in 2018, survey the asteroid for a year and a half, depart in December 2019, and return to Earth in 2020.
Hayabusa 2 is a successor mission to the first Hayabusa, which launched in 2003 and arrived at asteroid Itokawa in 2005. The mission managed to bring the first pristine samples of an asteroid to Earth. The material has since been distributed to scientists worldwide.