A Japanese space explorer has departed on a six-year roundtrip journey to blow a crater in a remote asteroid in hopes of gathering clues to the origin of earth.

Hayabusa2 was launched Wednesday from Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.

The explorer is expected to reach the asteroid in 2018 and spend 18 months studying it before returning in 2020.

The research includes shooting a projectile into the asteroid to blast open a crater so the explorer can collect rock samples from inside.

Asteroids can provide evidence not available on earth about the birth of the solar system and its evolution. Japan's space agency said Hayabusa2 will explore the origin of seawater and how the planet earth was formed.