Japan tests asteroid-blasting 'space cannon'

Space Mission Asteroid Rocket

Japans space agency conducted a successful test this week of its space cannon, expected to depart on a mission to shoot an asteroid in 2014, as part of the Hayabusa 2 mission.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to launch space probe Hayabusa 2 to an asteroid next year, in hopes of sampling a class of asteroids expected to be rich in organic materials. The mission is expected to help astronomers better understand the relationship between asteroid organic materials and those found on Earth, as well as to burnish Japans reputation as a top space explorer.

The news comes just one month after JAXA launched into space its Epsilon rocket, a cost-effective rocket that runs on automated systems, not human operators. The rocket has been billed as heralding a new generation of high-tech spacecraft, along with Japan’s reentry to the forefront of Earth’s foray into the final frontier, after decades of intermittent space flops ( via csmonitor.com ).