Friday, October 25, 2013

Paging Mr. Tarkin, Mr. Grand Moff Tarkin...

A group of Japanese scientists have successfully tested a new system for examining an asteroid. That part probably sounds pretty boring, until you learn that the new system involves shooting a space cannon at the asteroid and landing in the crater to study what the impact uncovers.

The Hayabusa-2 probe will launch next year and rendezvous with the asteroid 1999 JU3 in its orbit between Earth and Mars sometime in 2018. It will then fire a 17-pound projectile at 1999 JU3, which will leave a mark, and then land in the mark to collect sand analyze amples, hanging around until late 2019. Then it will take off and return to Earth in late 2020.

If there are any life forms living on 1999 JU3, they will probably wonder if we have any understanding of the old "knock and run away" game, since Hayabusa-2 will take four years to get to their door and hang around for a year and a half after knocking with its space cannon.

Other asteroids were considered for the experiments, but they were deemed "too remote to make an effective demonstration."

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