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Tiny robots send home 1st photos from asteroid's surface

25 September 2018

The space agency reported that MINERVA-II1 is the world's first mobile exploration robot to land on the surface of an asteroid.

The robots are created to hop around the asteroid's surface to collect photos, samples, and data from its surface, as Ryugu's gravity is too weak for rolling to work.

Japan's space agency has managed to surpass ESA's achievement of landing a craft on an asteroid by landing two rovers on another.

When the rovers were released, JAXA engineers were forced to wait and wonder if they made it to the surface in one piece.

Two MINERVA rovers were deployed on September 21 and both have successfully landed. Hayabusa 2 will also smash the asteroid with explosives to blast away part of its surface, exposing underground material that the spacecraft will collect and eventually send back to Earth. The space agency also noted that Ryugu is thought to contain water - making it an appropriate namesake of an underwater palace.

A shot the Hayabusa2 spacecraft took back in June of asteroid 162173 Ryugu
Japan successfully lands rovers on asteroid Ryugu

On Saturday, the agency posted that the two exploratory robots Hayabusa2 sent toward Ryugu on Friday are "in good condition" and moving freely on the asteroid's surface.

The rovers were able to send back some fantastic pictures that were transmitted back to Earth via Hayabusa-2.

Both rovers were launched from the Hayabusa2 space station and will capture data from the 1km-wide space rock called Ryugu. Soon after the probe itself will touch down the soil of the asteroid and bring back some samples of Ryugu to Earth. While they contain scientific instruments including cameras, thermometers, and accelerometers, one objective of the rovers (which use torque generated by rotating internal components instead of wheels) is simply to act as a proof of concept for low-gravity environmental exploration. By the end of next year, the spacecraft is expected to begin its return journey to Earth with a cache of samples collected from Ryugu.

'I am proud that Hayabusa2 was able to contribute to the creation of this technology for a new method of space exploration by surface movement on small bodies'.

Tiny robots send home 1st photos from asteroid's surface