Japan Lands 2 Robot Rovers on Asteroid Surface

Pablo Tucker
September 25, 2018

The rovers move by "hopping" up to 15 metres (50 feet) at a time because the extremely weak gravity on the asteroid makes rolling hard. JAXA tweeted that the rovers are in good condition and moving on the surface.

While just the first two rovers have been deployed to the space rock's surface, the Hayabusa-2 orbiter still has a pair of rovers on board that it will deploy at a later date. There's the Moon of course, a huge archive of images snapped from the surface of Mars, and even photos of Venus captured from the surface, but never has a spacecraft delivered a snapshot from the surface of an asteroid.

Japan Lands 2 Robot Rovers on Asteroid Surface

This computer graphic image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows two drum-shaped and solar-powered Minerva-II-1 rovers on an asteroid.

The space agency reported that MINERVA-II1 is the world's first mobile exploration robot to land on the surface of an asteroid. The next day, JAXA shared an impressionistic image of the landing site: the craggy dark stone of the carbon-rich Ryugu lit by a brilliant beam of light from the sun.


"The Hayabusa 2 will also bring back a capsule with samples", JAXA explained in a news release announcing the asteroid's name, "thus the theme of "bringing back a treasure" is common".

The two robots will capture colour images of the asteroid and measure temperatures before the agency sends a larger rover in October.


Later, it will deploy an explosive kinetic impactor and create a new crater on Ryugu.

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.


While Hayabusa2 is expected to return to Earth by the end of the year 2020, CNN wrote the U.S.' own similar asteroid-sampling mission is not expected to be completed until 2023. Later that month, the original Hayabusa2 craft will descend on Ryugu and do what has never been done before: return a sample to Earth.

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