Japan had earlier scheduled its Hayabusa2 space probe to asteroid 1999 JU3 to take off on Sunday, but due to bad weather, the launch has been delayed to Monday when it is expected that weather conditions will have improved to make the launch easy and hassle-free.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) released a statement to this effect, and the release reads in part “The launch of the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 26 with the Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa2 on board has been rescheduled as clouds including a freezing layer that exceeds the restrictions for suitable weather are forecast to be generated at around the scheduled launch time on November 30.”
Constructed at the cost of about $260 million, the current Hayabusa2 space probe follows after the successful launch of the first Hayabusa to space in June 2010, approximately 4 years ago. Located at about 3,000 feet and orbiting the sun along the Earth, the 1999 JU3 spherical asteroid will be the destination of this Hayabusa2 probe, and it aims to collect samples that give knowledge and understanding into how life began on Earth billions of years ago.
According to Hitoshi Kuninaka, the Hayabusa 2 program manager, “The asteroid is carbonaceous, and we may find organic matter and water, the stuff of life.”
Paul Abell, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, goes further to explain that “Knowledge of those materials helps us not only learn about the solar system in terms of its early stages of formation, but it also helps us [discover] how life on Earth may have evolved and where the oceans of Earth may have formed. If you have meteorites that just fall to Earth, there’s always the question of whether or not those types of organic molecules, some of the volatile materials and the water is due to contamination … we need something pristine and completely uncontaminated.”
The first Hayabusa mission to a near-Earth asteroid 25143 Itokawa was not too successful according to the rating of the mission scientists – even though the probe returned samples that were analyzed. This second mission probe will improve upon the mission of the first probe, and it has been estimated to arrive asteroid 1999 JU3 by mid-2018, where it will spend some 18 months before returning to Earth in 2020.