Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Hayabusa2 Update: A European Lander Is Deployed to the Surface of Asteroid Ryugu!

The shadow of the German-made MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) is visible on Ryugu's surface (at upper right) as the lander descended towards the asteroid on October 3, 2018 (Japan Time).
German Aerospace Center - DLR

Over ten days after it successfully deployed the two MINERVA-II rovers onto the surface of asteroid Ryugu, Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft repeated the feat again last night when it released the German-made MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) lander...which touched down on the rocky body 186 million miles (300 million kilometers) from Earth. Due to the life span of its lithium primary battery, MASCOT will only operate for 16 hours—which amounts to two asteroid days on Ryugu—before its mission ends. With three landers now safely on its target's surface, Hayabusa2 will now shift to sample-gathering operations. The first attempt can occur as soon as this month.

The photo above was taken by MASCOT as it descended towards Ryugu yesterday. If you look to the upper right, you can spot the lander's shadow on the asteroid's surface. So amazing! Hayabusa2 will deploy the final rover, MINERVA-II-2, sometime next year.

Two illustrations depicting the MASCOT lander being released from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft and landing on asteroid Ryugu's surface.

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