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Japan's hopping space rovers land on asteroid

26 September 2018
Japan's hopping space rovers land on asteroid

According to Advocator, after releasing the robots from the mothership on Friday, the engineers were waiting for the confirmation that the rovers made a safe landing.

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. The aim of the mission is to collect samples from the 900-meter-long Ruige asteroid and bring them back to Earth for study.

After the successful landing, the two rovers hopped around on the surface and shot colored images.

Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, affirmed the arrival of the two landers, MINERVA-II1A and MINERVA-II1B, on Twitter. JAXA released a photo taken by Rover 1A while it was hopping from one location to another and by Rover 1B during its journey down to the surface. They have been created to "hop" along the surface of the asteroid as its low gravity would complicate the traditional way such robotic explorers usually roll on wheels or tracks.

The robots touched down on the asteroid on Saturday after which, the spacecraft was lifted to an altitude of 12.5 miles or 20 kilometers.

Later, a tool-packed cube called MASCOT will be sent down to the asteroid to relay a wealth of readings back to JAXA.

The two rovers are part of the Hayabusa2 asteroid sample-return mission, headed by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

A third lander, known as MASCOT, will be released October 3. Spine-like projections from the edges of the hoppers are sensors that will measure surface temperatures on the asteroid.

"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". Hayabusa returned to Earth in 2010. Around autmun next year, Hayabusa2 will fire a 2kg copper "collision device" at Ryugu, attempting to blow a small crater in the surface.