Japan's hopping space rovers land on asteroid

Japan Lands Robot Rovers On Asteroid To Collect Solar System Data

Japan's Hayabusa2 Spacecraft Successfully Deploys Landers To Asteroid Ryugu's Surface

The asteroid, called Ryugu, is now home to two rovers creatively named Rover 1A and Rover 1B where they will remain for the foreseeable in a mission that will see the bots capture images of the giant rock's surface and temperature.

The Japanese space agency said that it has made history by successfully landing two unmanned rovers on an asteroid.

The stunning shots were taken as part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Hayabusa2 asteroid sampling mission on the Ryugu asteroid's surface. 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.

"Each of the rovers is operating normally and has started surveying Ryugu's surface", JAXA said in a statement. The craft has previously flown tantalizingly close to the asteroid's surface for the goal of measuring its gravitational pull; while descending to Ryugu this time, Hayabusa2 travelled from its orbit 12. This will help Hayabusa-2 to gather rock samples that haven't been directly exposed to the environment of space, providing "fresh" material for scientists to study.

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 will also deploy yet another another small rover (this time containing optical and ultraviolet LEDs) in 2019. Hayabusa2 will then descend again to collect subsurface samples.

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

"I am proud that Hayabusa2 was able to contribute to the creation of this technology for a new method of space exploration by surface movement on small bodies".

It was launched in 2014 and is due to return to Earth by 2020.

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