A unique space cannon developed for Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft has successfully test-fired on Earth in preparation for a 2014 mission. During its upcoming journey into space, the cannon will blast an asteroid and mine samples of its soil.
The test took place in the Japanese prefecture of Gifu, paving the way for the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft to extract soil samples from the asteroid, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced on Monday.
During the mission of Hayabusa 2, scheduled to begin in December 2014, the space probe will extract soil from inside the asteroid. In order to do this, it will be equipped with a collision device designed to shoot at the surface of the asteroid from a distance of 100 meters with metal shell ammunition moving at a speed of two kilometers per second.
JAXA hopes to create a small (a few meters in diameter), artificial crater from which Japanese scientists can extract valuable samples capable of revealing the history of the formation of cosmic bodies of this type.
“A new function, [a] ‘collision device,’ is considered to be [on board] to create a crater artificially,” JAXA explained on its website, adding that collecting samples from the surface that is exposed by a collision will ensure acquiring “fresh samples that are less weathered by the space environment or heat.”