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

They Made It! Japan's Two Hopping Rovers Successfully Land on Asteroid Ryugu

They Made It! Japan's Two Hopping Rovers Successfully Land on Asteroid Ryugu

Japan's space probe on Friday released a pair of exploring rovers toward an egg-shaped asteroid to collect mineral samples that may shed light on the origin of the solar system.

Analysis of this information confirmed that at least one of the rovers is moving on the asteroid surface. In fact, one of the initial images sent home by the hoppers is awfully blurry, since the robot snapped it while still on the go.

In order to complete the deployment, the main spacecraft of the Hayabusa2 mission lowered itself carefully down toward the surface until it was just 120 feet (55 meters) up.

The two rovers dropped slowly to the surface of the asteroid at a speed of several centimeters per second.

The round, cookie tin-shaped robots successfully reached the Ryugu asteroid a day after they were released from the Hayabusa2 probe, the agency said. The asteroid appears at lower right.

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Hayabusa2 will next month deploy an "impactor" that will explode above the asteroid, shooting a two-kilo (four-pound) copper object to blast a small crater into the surface.

The probe will also release a French-German landing vehicle named the mobile asteroid surface scout (MASCOT) for surface observation.

'The two rovers are in good condition and are transmitting images and data, ' a statement said. "I want to see images of space as seen from the surface of the asteroid", he said.

"I was so moved to see these small rovers successfully explore an asteroid surface because we could not achieve this at the time of Hayabusa, 13 years ago".

The Hayabusa2, about the size of a large refridgerator and equipped with solar panels, is the successor to JAXA's first asteroid explorer, the Hayabusa - Japanese for falcon. It arrived at Ryugu on June 27, 2018 and is scheduled to depart from the asteroid in December 2019 in order to return to our planet in December 2020.

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