Japan makes history, lands 2 rovers on an asteroid

Ismael LynchSep 26, 2018

Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa2 project manager said: "I can not find words to express how happy I am that we were able to realise mobile exploration on the surface of an asteroid".

Takashi Kubota, a spokesman for the Tokyo-based firm, said: 'I felt in awe by what we had achieved in Japan.

Hayabusa2 arrived at Ryugu on June 28, 2018 after a almost four year journey.

This is the first exploration of an asteroid by a rover.

Since landing, the rovers have sent back photos and data.

Color image captured by Rover-1A on September 22, 2018, while moving (during a hop) on the surface of asteroid Ryugu.

This is presumably because Ryugu's rotation took the rovers out of view from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft, but scientists won't know for sure until later Friday (or Saturday morning, in Japan) when they attempt to download images from the rovers.

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.

Further on in the mission, Japan's space agency plans to detonate an explosive charge that will punch a crater into the surface of Ryugu.

MINERVA-II1 is therefore "the world's first man-made object to explore movement on an asteroid surface". On the way and thanks to their many instruments (temperature sensors, optics, gyroscopes, accelerometers, seven cameras, etc.), each Minerva II will collect a series of data and images.

Artist's illustration of the MINERVA-II1 Rovers A and B on Ryugu.

The Hayabusa2 probe was launched in December 2014. NASA's OSIRIS-REx probe is in the home stretch of its journey to the 1,640-foot-wide (500 meters) asteroid Bennu; the spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at Bennu on December 3 and slip into orbit around the space rock on December 31.

Asteroids are essentially leftover building materials from the formation of the Solar System 4.6 billion years ago. And sometime next year, another little hopper, MINERVA-II2, will touch down on Ryugu as well.

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