Hayabusa2 Japanese robots send incredible photos from Ryugu asteroid

Jo Lloyd
September 27, 2018

"I was particularly impressed with the images taken from close range on the asteroid surface".

The Japanese space agency JAXA has successfully landed two space rovers on a far-flung asteroid in the deep void of space.

Now, the first images have arrived back from the space rock, showing their drop from satellite Hayabusa2 which had been travelling to the asteroid for three and a half years. JAXA said the release of the mini-rovers went successfully. At the end of next month, the spacecraft itself is supposed to land on the asteroid and blow a small crater in it to reach samples that haven't before been exposed to space.

A shot the Hayabusa2 spacecraft took back in June of asteroid 162173 Ryugu. One of the main gathering soil samples and sending them to Earth for analysis. The MINERVA-II1 consists of two rovers, Rover-1A and Rover-1B.

With the successful landing the MINERVA rovers became the first ever mobile robots to conduct observations on an asteroid.

JAXA's MINERVA-II1 rovers are created to move around the asteroid by hopping, so some of the photos shared so far are action shots that have the motion blur and lens flares of a J.J. Abrams blockbuster.

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

A statement from JAXA read: "The two rovers are in good condition and are transmitting images and data". Both rovers are confirmed to have landed on the surface of Ryugu.

The Minerva-II1 robots measure just 18 cm by 7 cm and weigh approximately one kg.

Low gravity on asteroids will allow these robotic rovers to jump to as high as 49 feet and even stay in the air for as long as 15 minutes to study the physical features of the asteroid.

From this crater, the probe will collect "fresh" materials unexposed to millennia of wind and radiation, hoping for answers to some fundamental questions about life and the universe, including whether elements from space helped give rise to life on Earth.

Hayabusa-3 is set to come back to Earth in December 2020.

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