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Japan’s Rovers Successfully Land on Asteroid Ryugu

September 24, 2018
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Japan’s Rovers Successfully Land on Asteroid Ryugu

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched a pair of rovers on the asteroid Ryugu. They successfully landed and sent back remarkable photos.

Engineers deployed the robots early Friday (Sept. 21). However, JAXA waited until today (Sept. 22) to confirm the operation was successful and both rovers landed safely.

Hayabusa2 space probe released the pair of tiny robots which touched down on an asteroid 180 million miles from Earth. JAXA launched its Hayabusa2 probe back in 2014, and the craft is now orbiting Ryugu.

So, the two rovers, Rover-1A and Rover-1B, are in good condition and moving freely on the asteroid’s surface, said the agency on Saturday.

They are also transmitting images and data.

Image captured by Rover-1A on September 21 at around 13:08 JST, immediately after separation from the spacecraft. Hayabusa2 is at the top and the surface of Ryugu is bottom. The rover took the shot while rotating causing the blurred image. Credit: JAXA

In order to complete the deployment, the main spacecraft of the Hayabusa2 mission lowered itself carefully down toward the surface until it was just 180 feet (55 meters) up. After the rovers were on their way, the spacecraft raised itself back up to its typical altitude of about 12.5 miles above the asteroid’s surface (20 kilometers).

Image captured by Rover-1B on September 21 at around 13:07 JST after separation from the spacecraft. The surface of Ryugu is in the lower right. The reflection of sunlight caused the colored blur on the top left. Credit: JAXA

The rovers use solar-powered motors. So, until the solar panels are fine, they will take photos and valuable temperature readings that could help us understand the history of our solar system and prepare for the future of asteroid mining.

However, JAXA expects Hayabusa2 to leave Ryugu at the end of 2019 and return to Earth around the end of 2020.

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Thumbnail image: A photo taken by a tiny robot released by the Hayabusa2 space probe shows the surface of the asteroid Ryugu on Saturday amid splotches of sunlight. Credit: JAXA

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