Japanese Mission Becomes first to Land Rovers on Asteroid

Sep 25, 2018

By Elizabeth Gibney, Nature magazine

Japan’s asteroid mission Hayabusa2 has become the first to land moving rovers on the surface of an asteroid.

On 22 September, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) tweeted that it had confirmed the mission’s twin rovers, called MINERVA-II 1A and 1B, had landed safely on the space rock Ryugu, and were moving on the surface.

The Hayabusa2 mothership deployed the small probes late last week as it dropped to just 55 metres above the surface, later pulling up to a higher orbit.

Mission controllers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) lost communication with the MINERVA rovers in the hours after deployment. The team said the silence was probably down to the landers being on the far side of the asteroid, as seen from the orbiter.

But the hexagonal rovers have now sent back their first, slightly blurry, colour images of their surface and made their first ‘hop’—their primary means of movement on the rock’s surface. The probes use rotating motors to make jumps, each lasting some 15 minutes owing to the body’s low gravity.

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3 comments on “Japanese Mission Becomes first to Land Rovers on Asteroid

  • @OP – On 22 September, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) tweeted that it had confirmed the mission’s twin rovers, called MINERVA-II 1A and 1B, had landed safely on the space rock Ryugu, and were moving on the surface.

    There is a wealth of information and pictures on this twitter link!



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  • There are now more photos being released!
    They seem to show a rocky rubble surface.

    [https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45667350](https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45667350}

    Japan’s space agency (Jaxa) has released new images from the robot rovers it has deployed to the surface of an asteroid.

    The photos reveal new details of the surface of the space rock, which is known as Ryugu.

    On 21 September, the rovers were released on to the surface by the “mothership”, Hayabusa 2.

    Hayabusa 2 reached Ryugu in June after a three-and-a-half-year journey.

    The pictures show in clear relief the rugged, boulder-strewn landscape of this striking Solar System body.

    The robots, known as Rover 1A and Rover 1B, are now both confirmed to be working on the surface of the space rock.



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  • The asteroid probe is now moving to the next stage of its mission.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45655153

    Hayabusa-2 should release Mascot in the early hours of Wednesday

    The Hayabusa-2 spacecraft will release the German-French Mascot lander onto the asteroid 162173 Ryugu on Wednesday.

    Mascot will then analyse the asteroid’s surface properties, including its mineral composition and magnetic field.

    On 21 September, Jaxa celebrated a first, as its “mothership” deployed two robot explorers to the surface of Ryugu.

    Now, it’s the turn of the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (Mascot), which has been built by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the French Space Agency (Cnes).

    Hayabusa-2 spent Tuesday reducing its altitude from its “home position” of 20km above the asteroid. At about 02:00 BST, and at an altitude of about 56m from Ryugu’s surface, Mascot will be commanded to separate from its Japanese “mothership”.

    Mascot will then touch down at its pre-selected landing site. Mission planners expect it to bounce before coming to a stop.



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