A "space cannon" scheduled to fire a metal bullet at an asteroid in 2018 has been successfully tested, according to press reports. A spokesman with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) told AFP that the Hayabusa2 project, set to carry the cannon into space, "is progressing as planned."
Hayabusa2 mission is expected to launch in 2014 and is designed arrive at Asteroid 1999 JU3 four years later. The spacecraft's cannon will drift toward the surface of the asteroid, blasting the space rock to create crater where Hayabusa2 will collect samples from the interior of the asteroid, eventually returning them to Earth by about 2020. [Photos of Japan's Hayabusa-2 Asteroid-Sampling Mission]
The Hayabusa2 project follows in the line of another probe of the same name. The original Hayabusa mission collected dust from an asteroid, returning to Earth in 2010, but now JAXA scientists are hoping to use the space cannon to get a better look at the interior of a space rock.
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Miriam Kramer joined Space.com as a Staff Writer in December 2012. Since then, she has floated in weightlessness on a zero-gravity flight, felt the pull of 4-Gs in a trainer aircraft and watched rockets soar into space from Florida and Virginia. She also served as Space.com's lead space entertainment reporter, and enjoys all aspects of space news, astronomy and commercial spaceflight. Miriam has also presented space stories during live interviews with Fox News and other TV and radio outlets. She originally hails from Knoxville, Tennessee where she and her family would take trips to dark spots on the outskirts of town to watch meteor showers every year. She loves to travel and one day hopes to see the northern lights in person. Miriam is currently a space reporter with Axios, writing the Axios Space newsletter. You can follow Miriam on Twitter.