Two small rovers capture first-ever images aboard asteroid

After three and a half years of travel, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft found the 162173 Ryugu asteroid in June of this year

0 October 2, 2018
Devin Jones

Hayabusa2

JAXA attempted a similar mission in 2005 but it ultimately failed/Photo: JAXA

Two robotics rovers were able to capture video footage aboard a hurtling asteroid Ryugu, as part of an ongoing project from the Japanese space agency (JAXA).

After three and a half years of travel, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft found the 162173 Ryugu asteroid in June of this year. A successful analysis of the space rock lead to the on boarding of the dual MINERVA-II1 rovers.

At Shaped like small metal containers, the rovers captured 15 images over an hour and fifteen minute period, which played together in sequence, appear as a video with the Sun moving across the “sky” 174 million miles (280M km) away from Earth.

Due to low levels of gravity, the robots were able to jump across the astroid up to 15 meters high and remain suspended for up to 15 minutes. Later this month the Hayabusa2 spacecraft plans to  deploy a device that will explode above the asteroid, shooting a 2kg copper missile to blast a small crater into its surface. This will allow researchers to collect samples that—for millions of years—had been protected by strong winds and radiation.

In 2005 JAXA attempted a similar mission to land a rover on a similar asteroid but it ultimately failed.

“I am so proud that we have established a new method of space exploration for small celestial bodies,” said JAXA’s project manager, Yuichi Tsuda.

According to JAXA, this robotic observation is the first of its kind, and the rovers are scheduled to return to Earth in 2020 to report their findings, after launching in December 2014.

global.jaxa.jp


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