Japan successfully lands two small rovers on asteroid Ryugu

Mindy Sparks
September 24, 2018

Analysis of this information confirmed that at least one of the rovers is moving on the asteroid surface.

Each of the two Minerva-II1 rovers measures 18 centimeters in diameter and 7 cm in height and weighs 1.1 kilograms.

"Each of the rovers is operating normally and has started surveying Ryugu's surface", JAXA said in a statement on Saturday.

Due to the asteroid's weak gravitational pull, the rovers dropped slowly to the surface as there was a risk that they could float off into space if they landed hard.

The tiny rovers are part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hayabusa2 asteroid sample-return mission.

The probe's predecessor Hayabusa, named after the Japanese word for peregrine falcon, arrived at the Itokawa asteroid in 2005 to conduct scientific observations but its Minerva explorer failed to reach the surface.

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

Later in the mission, scheduled for the end of October, the spacecraft will land on the asteroid after blowing a small crater in it using explosives, so samples that haven't been exposed to space can be gathered from below the object's surface.

The first images from the astronomical object flying at some 300 million kilometers from the Earth were received by Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) immediately after the MINERVA-II1 rovers touched down on the asteroid on Friday. After the rovers were on their way, the spacecraft raised itself back up to its typical altitude of about 12.5 miles above the asteroid's surface (20 kilometers). "I want to see images of space as seen from the surface of the asteroid", he said.

Another container will deploy another hopping rover, a German/French co-operative effort called MASCOT.

Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet.

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