Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Hayabusa2 Rovers Start Probing Asteroid Ryugu

Japan's space agency releases first images of asteroid surface Japan landed a rover on an asteroid, and the 1st photos are out of this world
Frank Williams | 28 September, 2018, 19:24

But the rovers proved to be sturdy, operating in optimal conditions across the surface of the space rock Ryugu, which measures only 900 meters across. The image was captured by the main spacecraft's telescopic optical navigation camera, or ONC-T, as it closed in on Ryugu for the rover drop on September 21.

On September 21, Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully deployed two rovers on to the surface of asteroid Ryugu, becoming the first in history to accomplish such a feat. They show slightly tilted close-ups of the rocky surface from different locations.

The first rovers to hop around an asteroid's surface have continued to send back pictures of their travels - and so has the main spacecraft, which is keeping watch dozens of miles above them.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft has been snapping images and its rovers have been cruising the surface of the asteroid snapping pics.

The gravity on the surface of asteroids like Ryugu is very weak.

162173 Ryugu is one of many asteroids which occupy the orbital space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

"I am proud that Hayabusa2 was able to contribute to the creation of this technology for a new method of space exploration by surface movement on small bodies".

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"I can not find words to express how happy I am that we were able to realize mobile exploration on the surface of an asteroid", project manager Yuichi Tsuda said on the space agency's website.

"It is fantastic to be a human living at this moment in the history of space exploration". Now that they're operational, the two will spend their time investigating Ryugu's surface for clues about its formation, evolution and ultimately the state of our early solar system.

The rovers were stored within a container called MINERVA-II1.

Eventually, Hayabusa 2 will itself descend to the asteroid's surface to collect samples which it's aiming to return to Earth some time in 2020.

Hayabusa2 Project spokesperson Takashi Kubota said the mission was "a dream of many years [which] came true".

The photographs capture, in vast detail, the uneven and rocky surface of the asteroid.

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