Japan craft drops rovers on asteroid

Japan craft drops rovers on asteroid

Saturday update: More than 24 hours after they were released by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft to fly down to the surface of the asteroid Ryugu, the Japanese Space Agency has finally provided an update on the fate of the two tiny robots.

In early October, JAXA, Japan's space agency, plans to launch a third rover.

"We don't have confirmation yet, but we are very, very hopeful", project manager Yuichi Tsuda said.

Due to Ryugu's weak gravity, each hop took the rovers 15 metres and 15 minutes to land.

They will also measure the surface temperature ahead of Hayabusa2's own landing late next month.

The landers were developed by JAXA, the Japanese space agency, and the University of Aizu.

Hayabusa2 spacecraft is now at the altitude of 20 kilometers above the surface of the asteroid from where it will deploy a larger rover called MASCOT created to impact on the asteroid to form a crater sometime in October next year. "From the surface of Ryugu, MINERVA-II1 sent a radio signal to the ground station via Hayabusa2".

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The probe will also release a French-German landing vehicle named Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) for surface observation. "This is just a real charm of deep space exploration".

Snapped while the rover was rotating, the blurred image shows Hayabusa2 at the top of the screen with the surface of Ryugu depicted at the bottom.

An artist's impression of the MINERVA-II1 landers deployed by Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft.

JAXA proudly tweeted pictures from the rovers, which reached Earth via the spaceship Hayabusa-2. (1.1 kilograms) - kicks off an ambitious surface-exploration campaign at the big asteroid.

Asteroids are believed to have rich information about the formation of the solar system billions of years ago. The main spacecraft will collect a sample to bring to Earth for laboratory analysis.

It will then collect samples from the asteroid before flying home to Earth, where the samples will be scientifically analysed.

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