Robots landing on an asteroid?

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An asteroid has received the first ever visit by an extra-terrestrial being; us!  The Hayabusa 2 spacecraft, manufactured by the Japanese and controlled by the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), spent more than 3 years carefully zigzagging its way to the asteroid Ryugu; an object that is just about a half mile across and composed of carbon-rich C-type materials.

This means, that it quite possibly has considerable amount of ice, water and organic material. This asteroid is about 177 million miles (about 285 million kilometers) from Earth. The Hayabusa spacecraft sent 2 robots to the surface of the asteroid while orbiting about 12 miles off the surface.

The asteroid Ryugu is 177 million miles from Earth

 

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A picture sent by one of the rovers of the surface of the asteroid

The rovers, known as Rover 1A and Rover 1B, are now positively identified as having landed on the surface of Ryugu and appear to be in good working condition. They are both hopping due to the low gravity of the asteroid and use an internal rotating mass that propels them to assist in their movements. These hops can last about 15 minutes in the air. These rovers weigh about 1kg each.

They are also equipped with wide-angle lenses and stereo cameras that allow pictures to be taken and sent back to Earth. They are also equipped with sensors to measure the temperature of the surface. Hayabusa 2 is equipped with enough scientific tools to be able to do many studies about the composition of the rocks and understand how this ancient asteroid can teach us about the evolution of our planets within our own solar system.

The plans are for the Hayabusa 2 to get samples of the rocks in 2019 and travel back to Earth by 2020; delivering samples for additional scientific study.

The Minerva Rovers that are on the asteroid

Asteroids are mostly leftover building materials from the formation our Solar System, calculated to be about 4.6 billion years old.

For more information about this incredible project, visit http://www.hayabusa2.jaxa.jp/en/.


 

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