Japan space probe drops hopping rovers toward asteroid

Japan Becomes First Country To Land On An Asteroid As TIE-Fighter-Shaped Hyabusa2 Space Probe Unleashes Tiny Rovers Onto Ryugu In Historic First

The two rovers have a hexagonal shape, weigh 1.1 kg (2.4 lb) each, are 7 cm (2.8 in.) tall, and have a diameter of 18 cm (7.1 in.).

A Japanese space probe yesterday released a pair of exploring rovers towards an egg-shaped asteroid to collect mineral samples that may shed light on the origin of the solar system.

After a 3.2 billion-kilometer journey, the Hayabusa-2 asteroid-sampling space probe stabilized in June in orbit around Ryugu, a space rock which is now about 280 million kilometers from our planet.

The Japan Space Exploration Agency said the two Minerva-II-1 rovers were lowered from the unmanned spacecraft Hayabusa2 to the asteroid Ryugu.

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If successful, JAXA has said it will be the "world's first sample return mission to a C-type asteroid". And about that "II" business: A MINERVA hopper flew aboard the original Hayabusa mission, which arrived at the asteroid Itokawa in 2005. These small rovers hop rather than crawl. Their hopping mechanism will allow them to easily move across the surface of asteroid where gravity is much weaker.

"There are four cameras on Rover-1A and three cameras on Rover-1B". A larger, instrument-laden lander, provided by the German and French space agencies and known as MASCOT ("Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout"), will be dropped off next month. Some of the projections from the rover edge that looks like thorns are temperature sensors to measure the surface temperature of Ryugu.

"The rovers communicate with Hayabusa2 using the repeater (OME-E) installed on the main spacecraft". This is done to better study the asteroid's surface. 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.

C-type asteroids, which are largely composed of carbon, are the most common variety of asteroids, comprising more than 75% of those now discovered.

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