Japanese rovers send back first video from asteroid 280 million km away

Katie Ramirez
September 28, 2018

On September 21 the MINERVA-II1 rovers were deployed on the surface of Ryugu to explore the asteroid. Enjoy "standing" on the surface of this asteroid!

The scientists and engineers behind Japan's Hayabusa 2 mission made history last week when the mission's mothership dropped two mini-rovers onto the surface of the asteroid Ryugu, 180 million miles from Earth, but they're not resting on their laurels. They show slightly tilted close-ups of the rocky surface from different locations.

The rovers, which are referred to as Rover-1A and Rover-1B, have been photographing and exploring Ryugu; it took the Hayabasa2 three-and-a-half years to reach Ryugu. The movie has 15 frames captured on September 23, 2018 from 10:34 - 11:48 JST.

The pins on the rovers have a few roles: they increase friction when hopping, protect the solar cells that power the robots when landing, and a few of the pins have a sensor that can measure the asteroid's surface temperature directly. Weak gravity on the asteroid makes it hard for the rovers to roll on the surface.

"I can not find words to express how happy I am that we were able to realize mobile exploration on the surface of an asteroid".

162173 Ryugu is one of many asteroids which occupy the orbital space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

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"Therefore, this hopping mechanism was adopted for moving across the surface of such small celestial bodies".

"This is just a real charm of deep space exploration".

We've seen plenty of photos taken from the surface of places other than Earth.

After examining the far distant object and taking samples, Hayabusa-2 will depart Ryugu in December 2019 before returning to Earth by the end of 2020 with its cargo of samples. The team will then welcome a final member, a third rover from MINERVA-II, next summer.

Next month, Hayabusa2 will deploy a device that will explode above the asteroid, shooting a 2kg copper missile to blast a small crater into its surface.

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