Published: Sun, September 23, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

Japan space robots start asteroid survey

Japan space robots start asteroid survey

Japan's space probe on Friday released a pair of exploring rovers toward an egg-shaped asteroid to collect mineral samples that may shed light on the origin of the solar system.

JAXA officials announced on Saturday that images beamed back to Earth showed that the MINERVA-II1 rovers had touched down on the asteroid. "The two rovers are in good condition and are transmitting images and data", JAXA said in a statement.

The agency said the robots - round and biscuit tin-shaped - are the world's first man-made objects to explore movement on an asteroid's surface.

The rover mission marks the world's first moving, robotic observation of an asteroid surface, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Measuring just 18-by-7cms and weighing about one kilo, MINERVA-II1 rovers will take advantage of Ryugu's low gravity to hop about the surface of the asteroid, which is approximately one kilometer in diameter.

The rovers move by "hopping" up to 15 metres at a time because the extremely weak gravity on the asteroid makes rolling hard. "We don't have confirmation yet, but we are very, very hopeful", JAXA project manager Yuichi Tsuda told reporters.

China and the Vatican sign landmark pact on appointment of bishops
Bernardo Cervellera, a Vatican-China expert and chief editor of the missionary news agency Asia News. Beijing does not allow countries to have diplomatic relations with both China and Taiwan.

This computer generated image shows the Ryugu asteroid and the probe Hayabusa2.

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. MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout), meanwhile, will tumble rather than fly but can use its camera, infrared spectrometer, magnetometer and radiometer to study the smaller structural details of the asteroid's looser surface material.

A Japanese spacecraft released two small rovers on an asteroid in a mission that could provide clues to the origin of the solar system.

That probe, with help from NASA, returned from a smaller, potato-shaped asteroid in 2010 with dust samples - despite various setbacks during its epic seven-year odyssey - and was hailed a scientific triumph.

After examining the far distant object and taking samples, Hayabusa2 will depart Ryugu in December 2019 before returning to Earth by the end of 2020 with its cargo of samples.

Like this: