In DepthPlanetary Science

Japan to assault asteroid

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Science  28 Nov 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6213, pp. 1040
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6213.1040

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The most audacious assault ever launched on an asteroid—Hayabusa 2—will lift off from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center on 30 November. The original Hayabusa set an historic first by bringing back to Earth samples from the surface of an asteroid in 2010. Hayabusa 2 aims to retrieve samples from the surface of a different kind of asteroid and go a step further by blasting a crater and capturing some of the ejecta. Comparing samples from the surface and from underground will give scientists a better idea of what kind of material makes up asteroids and how it has changed over time. Combining the findings of the Hayabusa missions and the recent visit to a comet by a European spacecraft promises to sharpen our understanding of the early solar system and which of its varied bodies might have brought water and organic material—the seeds of life—to Earth.