Two little hopping robots deployed to asteroid Ryugu

24 Septembre, 2018, 03:31 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • This computer graphic image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency shows two drum-shaped and solar-powered Minerva-II-1 rovers on an asteroid. Japanese unmanned spacecraft Hayabusa2 released two small Minerva-II-1 rovers on the asteroid

After a 3.2 billion-kilometer journey, the Hayabusa-2 asteroid-sampling space probe stabilized in June in orbit around Ryugu, a space rock which is now about 280 million kilometers from our planet. "Gravity on the surface of Ryugu is very weak, so a rover propelled by normal wheels or crawlers would float upwards as soon as it started to move", mission team members wrote in a MINERVA-II1 description.

The release of Hayabusa 2's MINERVA-II-1 rovers occurred at 9:06 p.m. PT Thursday, mission controllers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency reported in a tweet.

So far so good, but JAXA must still wait for Hayabusa2 to send the rovers' data to Earth in a day or two to determine whether the release of the probes succeeded, officials said.

"We are very much hopeful".

The two rovers, each about the size of a cookie can, will capture photos of the asteroid and measure surface temperatures before a larger rover and lander are released later. "We don't have confirmation yet, but we are very, very hopeful", Yuichi Tsuda, JAXA project manager, told reporters. "I am looking forward to seeing pictures". By the way, "MASCOT" stands for "Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout". The pair of rovers, collectively known as MINERVA-II1, is attached to the bottom of the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft and will be released on September 21.

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We are now working to confirm if there are images capturing the MINERVA-II1 landing.

The two rovers have a hexagonal shape, weigh 1.1 kg (2.4 lb) each, are 7 cm (2.8 in.) tall, and have a diameter of 18 cm (7.1 in.).

The probe will then collect fresh materials from inside the crater which have not been exposed to wind and radiation.

Hayabusa2, launched in December 2014, is due to return to Earth in late 2020.

The mission is a successor to the Hayabusa probe, which was launched in 2003 and returned to Earth in 2010, but failed to successfully drop a lander on its target asteroid.

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