Published: Mon, September 24, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Hayabusa 2 probe drops two robotic landers on asteroid Ryugu

Hayabusa 2 probe drops two robotic landers on asteroid Ryugu

The Hayabusa 2 spacecraft has sent two small robotic probes toward the asteroid Ryugu, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced on September 21.

"Communication with MINERVA-II1 has now stopped", JAXA wrote on Twitter.

According to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) via Phys.org, "If the mission is successful, the rovers will conduct the world's first moving, robotic observation of an asteroid surface". That mission was also an attempt to collect a sample from an asteroid, but the lander, named MINERVA, was accidentally released when Hayabusa was too far away from the asteroid, so it got flung out into space and never landed.

Next month Hayabusa2 will deploy an impactor which will explode above the asteroid, to blast a crater into its surface.

If Rover-1A and 1B are on Ryugu, they will have more company soon. Their hopping mechanism will allow them to easily move across the surface of asteroid where gravity is much weaker. We are planning to use the cameras on each rover to create a stereo image of the surface of Ryugu.

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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.

"From a distance, Ryugu initially appeared round, then gradually turned into a square before becoming a handsome shape similar to fluorite - known as the "firefly stone" in Japanese", the space agency said in a statement. The maximum communication speed is 32 kbps.

The confirmation was received after an apparently hectic descent for operators of "Hayabusa-2".

The rocket carrying the rovers launched in December 2012, only arriving at the diamond shaped C-type space rock in June, three years after setting off on its mission to learn about the origins of Earth.

C-type asteroids, which are largely composed of carbon, are the most common variety of asteroids, comprising more than 75% of those now discovered. This is done to better study the asteroid's surface.

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