Hayabusa-2: Japan's rovers ready for touchdown on asteroid
Hayabusa-2: Japan's rovers ready for touchdown on asteroid
Illustration of Rover-1A and Rover-1B from MINERVA-II1 as they explore the surface of Ryugu
24 September, 2018, 03:37
Next month, Hayabusa2 will deploy an "impactor" that will explode above the asteroid, shooting a 2-kg (4-lb.) copper object into the surface to blast a crater a few meters in diameter.
The solar panelled-powered rovers move by "hopping" because the extremely weak gravity on the asteroid makes rolling hard. "I want to see images of space as seen from the surface of the asteroid", he said. "This is probably due to the rotation to Ryugu, and MINERVA-II1 is now on the far side of the asteroid".
"Therefore, this hopping mechanism was adopted for moving across the surface of such small celestial bodies".
Beneath their desolate surface, asteroids are believed to contain a rich treasure-trove of information about the formation of the solar system billions of years ago. If they land successfully, they will become the first ever mobile robots to conduct observations on an asteroid.
Once they have reached their destination, the robotic rovers will then have to move on the asteroid Ryugu by making large jumps, a solution considered safer than rolling themselves on the space rock's surface that appears very uneven. The rovers are also equipped with temperature gauges, optical sensors as well as an accelerometer and a set of gyroscopes.
Hayabusa2, launched in December 2014, is due to return to Earth in late 2020.
The rovers are stored in drum-shaped container at the base of the Hayabusa-2 "mothership". It is a "C-type" asteroid which is the most common class of asteroids.
"From a distance, Ryugu initially appeared round, then gradually turned into a square before becoming a lovely shape similar to fluorite - known as the "firefly stone" in Japanese", the space agency said in a statement. To date, there has been only one soft touchdown on an asteroid, and that was NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous-Shoemaker spacecraft, which landed on the asteroid Eros in 2001.
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