Japan releases space rovers on an asteroid

Mindy Sparks
September 23, 2018

So they haven't confirmed any images of the landing itself. "Now we are working on confirmation of receipt of images from the landing MINERVA-II1". Both of them are shaped like cylinders - 18 centimeters in diameter and 7 centimeters in height - and weigh about 1 kilogram.

[MINERVA-II1] The altitude of Hayabusa2 when this image was captured was about 80m (262 feet).

Hayabusa2 carries four payloads - three rovers and the 10kg lander, the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) built by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the French space agency (CNES).

Since Hayabusa 2 first rendezvoused with the asteroid earlier this summer, the probe has been regularly snapping photographs of the target.

The pair of cylindrical Minerva-II rovers were basically flung off the Japanese Space Agency's Hayabusa-2 spacecraft on Thursday.

Ryugu, which means "Dragon Palace" in Japanese, is an asteroid that is about 1 kilometer wide and lies 300 million kilometers from Earth.

And more landings are coming soon.

So far so good, but JAXA must still wait for Hayabusa2 to send the rovers' data to Earth in a day or two to determine whether the release of the probes succeeded, officials said. And all the world knows about the only mission that has ever executed a soft landing on a comet. In November 2014, the European Space Agency's Rosetta orbiter dropped a lander called Philae onto 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Because the surface of the asteroid is much smaller than a planet, the robot rovers are created to hop rather than roll along on wheels. And about that "II" business: A MINERVA hopper flew aboard the original Hayabusa mission, which arrived at the asteroid Itokawa in 2005. "Therefore, this hopping mechanism was adopted for moving across the surface of such small celestial bodies", they added. Once on the surface, the robots will hop around, jumping as high as 49 ft (15 m), and staying in the air as long as 15 minutes.

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