Japan’s two hopping rovers successfully land on asteroid Ryugu

24 Septembre, 2018, 16:57 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Rovers from Hayabusa2 land on asteroid

A Japanese spacecraft released two small rovers on an asteroid in a mission that could provide clues to the origin of the solar system.

The agency said the round, biscuit tin-shaped robots had successfully landed on the Ryugu asteroid a day after they were released from the Hayabusa2 probe.

The rover mission marks the world's first moving, robotic observation of an asteroid's surface, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

"Each of the rovers is operating normally and has started surveying Ryugu's surface", JAXA said in a statement.

Spectacular photos captured their "hop" onto Ryugu's barren surface.

The rovers move by "hopping" up to 15 metres at a time because the extremely weak gravity on the asteroid makes rolling hard.

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The space agency confirmed that after the landing, at least one of the two Minerva-II 1 rovers succeeded in jumping to another location on the surface of Ryugu by using an internal motor.

"I felt awed by what we had achieved in Japan".

The success marked the first time that rovers which can maneuver around the surface have been successfully placed on an asteroid, JAXA said.

"From the surface of Ryugu, MINERVA-II1 sent a radio signal to the Earth via Hayabusa2", Kubota said. "I was particularly impressed with the images taken from close range on the asteroid surface", said Makoto Yoshikawa, Hayabusa 2 Project Mission Manager.

Hayabusa2 is scheduled to deploy a larger rover called MASCOT in October and another tiny hopper next year.

Hayabusa2, launched in December 2014, is due to return to Earth in late 2020. After the rovers were on their way, the spacecraft raised itself back up to its typical altitude of about 12.5 miles above the asteroid's surface (20 kilometers). Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate.

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