Hayabusa 2 rovers land successfully on asteroid Ryugu:The Asahi Shimbun

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

Weighing some 0.6 metric tons, the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft was launched on December 3, 2014 by JAXA on mission to explore asteroid Ryugu, retrieve materials from it and bring them to Earth.

A pair of Minerva-II rovers are dropped on the egg-shaped Ryugu asteroid in this handout computer-generated image released by JAXA via Jiji Press on Sept 21.

The first-ever landing by a roving explorer on an asteroid means redemption for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which failed on a similar mission in 2005.

The spacecraft is set to release a German-French lander called MASCOT carrying four observation devices in early October and a bigger rover called Minerva-II-2 next year.

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In order to complete the deployment, the main spacecraft of the Hayabusa2 mission lowered itself carefully down toward the surface until it was just 120 feet (55 meters) up. The rovers came from the spacecraft Hayabusa2. The asteroid appears at lower right.

The rovers move by "hopping" up to 15 metres at a time because the extremely weak gravity on the asteroid makes rolling hard.

The rovers then sent data, including images, to Hayabusa2 about 20 kilometers above the surface of the asteroid. "I am proud that Hayabusa 2 was able to contribute to the creation of this technology for a new method of space exploration by surface movement on small bodies", said Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa 2 Project Manager. The robots will take photos and temperature readings of Ryugu before Hayabusa2 space probe lands on the asteroid's surface in 2019.

Hayabusa2 is scheduled to attempt three brief touch-and-go landings on the asteroid to collect samples in hopes of providing clues to the origin of the solar system and life on Earth. Once the probe completes taking samples from the asteroid, it will head back to Earth in late 2020. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate.

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