Japanese space agency lands rovers on asteroid

Japanese space agency lands rovers on asteroid

Now, following the successful deployment of a pair of tiny rovers from Japan's Hayabusa-2 spacecraft, the first color images from an asteroid's surface have been send back to Earth, and boy are they creepy.

It differs from the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission which landed on a comet in 2016, as that probe was only online briefly and remained stationary on the surface. Now that they have safely landed, the two surface landers' rovers are capable of making good use of the low-gravity environment to hop around Ryugu and survey different parts of its surface, according to the Guardian.

The rovers were able to send back some incredible pictures that were transmitted back to Earth via Hayabusa-2. It shows the Hayabusa 2 on top and Ryugu's surface. "I felt awed by what we had achieved in Japan". It's an incredibly cool image, but it's just the first of what JAXA hopes will be lots of snapshots of asteroid, called Ryugu. While they contain scientific instruments including cameras, thermometers, and accelerometers, one objective of the rovers (which use torque generated by rotating internal components instead of wheels) is simply to act as a proof of concept for low-gravity environmental exploration.

The 1kg rovers are equipped with wide-angle and stereo cameras, and are powered internal rotors, which propel the robots across the asteroid.

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Later, it will deploy an explosive kinetic impactor and create a new crater on Ryugu. The rovers also feature sensors that measure the surface temperatures, and Hayabusa2 itself carries sensors for remote sensing and sampling. "This is just a real charm of deep space exploration". Later that month, the original Hayabusa2 craft will descend on Ryugu and do what has never been done before: return a sample to Earth.

The spacecraft is set to release a German-French lander called MASCOT carrying four observation devices in early October and a bigger rover called Minerva-II-2 next year.

Hayabusa2 is scheduled to leave Ryugu in December 2019 and return to Earth, arriving in December 2020.

So far, the asteroid's surface was rougher than expected, which brought another layer of difficulty to the mission.

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