Japan space robots start asteroid survey

23 Septembre, 2018, 01:34 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • An artist's impression of the MINERVA-II1 landers deployed by Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft.               JAXA

In order to complete the deployment, the main spacecraft of the Hayabusa2 mission lowered itself carefully down toward the surface until it was just 120 feet (55 meters) up.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Minerva-II1 rover captured this view of asteroid Ryugu (bottom) and the Hayabusa2 spacecraft (at top right) just after the rover separated from the spacecraft on September 21, 2018.

The solar-powered rovers' voltage plunged as night fell on Ryugu, a sign that they are on the asteroid, said Hayabusa project team spokesman Takashi Kubota.

JAXA officials announced on Saturday that images beamed back to Earth showed that the MINERVA-II1 rovers had touched down on the asteroid.

"We are very much hopeful".

"I am looking forward to seeing pictures. I want to see the scenery of space seen from Ryugu's surface".

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Hayabusa2 will next month deploy an "impactor" that will explode above the asteroid, shooting a two-kilo (four-pound) copper object to blast a small crater into the surface.

From this crater, the probe will collect "fresh" materials unexposed to millennia of wind and radiation, hoping for answers to some fundamental questions about life and the universe, including whether elements from space helped give rise to life on the earth.

The probe will also release a French-German landing vehicle named Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) for surface observation.

Hayabusa2, about the size of a large fridge and equipped with solar panels, is the successor to JAXA's first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa - Japanese for falcon.

That probe returned from a smaller, potato-shaped, asteroid in 2010 with dust samples despite various setbacks during its epic seven-year odyssey and was hailed as a scientific triumph.

The tiny rovers are part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hayabusa2 asteroid sample-return mission.

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