Sunday, September 23, 2018

Hayabusa2 Update: Japan Lands Two Rovers on the Surface of Asteroid Ryugu!

A snapshot taken by Japan's MINERVA-II Rover-1A as it 'hopped' along asteroid Ryugu's surface on September 22, 2018 (Japan Time).

Last Friday, Japan made history when it successfully landed two rovers on the surface of asteroid Ryugu...the rocky body from which the Hayabusa2 spacecraft will extract samples from as early as next month. The image above was taken by MINERVA-II Rover-1A last Saturday (Japan Time) while the cheese wheel-sized probe was in the middle of a 'hop' (the MINERVA rovers don't move the same way that NASA's four-wheeled Curiosity rover does on Mars) above Ryugu's surface. The photo directly below was obtained by MINERVA-II Rover-1B as it descended towards the asteroid after being released from Hayabusa2 on September 21. The Japanese orbiter is set to release a German lander known as MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) within the next month, while a third MINERVA rover—dubbed MINERVA-II-2 Rover-2—will be deployed sometime next year.

A snapshot taken by Japan's MINERVA-II Rover-1B shortly after it was deployed from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft on September 21, 2018 (Japan Time).

The image below, taken right before the MINERVA rovers were deployed, is of asteroid Ryugu with Hayabusa2's TIE Fighter-like shadow clearly visible on its surface. You can expect to see this type of amazing snapshot a few more times when Hayabusa2 releases MASCOT and MINERVA Rover-2 as mentioned in the previous paragraph, as well as when JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) flight controllers finally command the orbiter to descend towards the small Near-Earth Object to collect soil samples for the first time. Can't wait!

Hayabusa2's shadow is visible on the surface of Ryugu as the Japanese spacecraft descended towards the asteroid on September 21, 2018 (Japan Time).

A photo of the two MINERVA-II-1 rovers before they were installed aboard Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft.

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