Tuesday, 18 December, 2018


Hayabusa2 rovers start exploring asteroid Ryugu

Kristine Garrett | 28 September, 2018, 19:22

Earlier this week, Japan's space agency, JAXA, stunned the world with confirmation that it had safely landed two rovers on the surface of asteroid Ryugu, doing what the European Space Agency's Rosetta had failed to do on Comet 67p.

We've seen plenty of photos taken from the surface of places other than Earth.

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

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

A series of specially designed cameras - four on the first rover and three on the second - are taking stereo images of the asteroid's surface. "The rover is expected to remain in the air for up to 15 minutes after a single hop before landing, and to move up to 15 m (50 feet) horizontally". And thanks to advanced accelerometers, optical sensors and gyroscopes, they operate completely autonomously. Their tiny bodies, which measure just 7 inches (18 centimeters) in diameter, are equipped with high-powered, asteroid-probing instruments.

Having already sent back some stunning photos from Ryugu's surface, JAXA has now surpassed this feat with the release of the first colour movie ever made on the surface of an asteroid.

The photographs capture, in vast detail, the uneven and rocky surface of the asteroid. But it didn't stop there - more pictures and even a 15-frame short video from the asteroid have been beamed back.

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

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. Later that month, the original Hayabusa2 craft will descend on Ryugu and do what has never been done before: return a sample to Earth.

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