Published: Tue, September 25, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

Japan Successfully Lands 2 Rovers on Surface of Asteroid Ryugu

Japan Successfully Lands 2 Rovers on Surface of Asteroid Ryugu

Now, following the successful deployment of a pair of tiny rovers from Japan's Hayabusa-2 spacecraft, the first color images from an asteroid's surface have been send back to Earth, and boy are they creepy. This is the first time humans have landed rovers on the surface of an asteroid, although in 2014, the European Space Agency shot the first photos taken from the surface of a comet.

Because Ryugu is so small and doesn't have a significant gravitational field, the landing was particularly hard, but this also allows the rovers to hop around the asteroid, taking photos as they go.

The robots, named Rover-1A and Rover-1B are both collectively known as Minerva-II1.

Now, the first images have arrived back from the space rock, showing their drop from satellite Hayabusa2 which had been travelling to the asteroid for three and a half years. The rovers move by "hopping" up to 15 metres (50 feet) at a time because the extremely weak gravity on the asteroid makes rolling hard. "I felt awed by what we had achieved in Japan".

After launching MASCOT, the Hayabusa2 will descend close to the surface of Ryugu, where it will collect surface samples from the asteroid using a device called a "sampling horn". "This is just a real charm of deep space exploration", said Takashi Kubota, a spokesman for the space agency, CNN reported.

Japan successfully lands rovers on asteroid Ryugu
Japan makes history by landing two space rovers on an asteroid

Next month, the spacecraft Hayabusa2 plans to shoot a two-kilo copper object to blast a small crater on Ryugu's surface.

NASA's NEAR-Shoemaker, launched in 1996, closely flew past asteroid Mathilde, coming within 1212 km of the asteroid's surface, next year.

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 Earth.

The rovers are also equipped with temperature gauges and optical sensors as well as an accelerometer and a set of gyroscopes.

"The Hayabusa 2 will also bring back a capsule with samples", JAXA explained in a news release announcing the asteroid's name, "thus the theme of "bringing back a treasure" is common". Studying it could shed light on the origin and evolution of Earth and even the solar system.

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