Japan successfully lands rovers on asteroid Ryugu

James Marshall
September 24, 2018

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

CBS News reports the Hayabusa2 space probe recently arrived to an asteroid known as 162173 Ryugu, where it dropped two landers created to hop around on the surface of the celestial object as it barrels through space, after being launched nearly four years ago.

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

The MINERVA-II1B rover captured this view of asteroid Ryugu on September 21, 2018 shortly after separating from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hayabusa2 spacecraft.

Spectacular photos captured their "hop" onto Ryugu's barren surface.

"I'm proud we now have the means to travel across the surface of a small astronomical body, and that Hayabusa2 was able to contribute", project manager Yuichi Tsuda said in a written comment.

Taking advantage of the asteroid's low gravity, the rovers will jump around on the surface - soaring as high as 15 metres (49 feet) and staying in the air for as long as 15 minutes - to survey the asteroid's physical features.

The 1 kilometer-wide space rock, which is shaped like a diamond, is expected to be "rich in water and organic materials", allowing scientists to "clarify interactions between the building blocks of Earth and the evolution of its oceans and life, thereby developing solar system science", JAXA said in a statement.

In October, the Hayabusa2 probe will deploy an "impactor" that will explode above the asteroid, shooting a 2kg copper missile to blast a small crater into the surface.

The agency said the robots - round and biscuit tin-shaped - are the world's first man-made objects to explore movement on an asteroid's surface.

The rovers maneuver by hopping and will send back data about the asteroid using cameras and instruments, including temperature and optical sensors.

The probe will also release a French-German landing vehicle named Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (Mascot) for surface observation.

The Hayabusa2 mission was launched in December 2014 and will return to Earth with its samples in 2020.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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