Over the weekend, a Japanese aircraft landed two rovers on the surface of an asteroid during the world’s first mission of its kind.
Two small Japanese robots have safely landed on an asteroid after they were dropped from a spacecraft on Friday. The historic moment witnessed the world’s first asteroid landing.
The MINERVA-II1 rotobic rovers have send back the very first images from the surface of the asteroid Ryuhu.
— The Life Pile (@thelifepile) September 20, 2018
After a brief period of silence as they dropped from the unmanned Hayabusa-2 spacecraft, the Japanese space agency JAXA confirmed that communications had been reestablished and that both explorers were operational.
It is especially hard to land on an asteroid due to its small size and fast traveling speed. The robots will now take advantage of Ryugu’s weak gravitational pull to hop across its surface and collect information to send back to Earth via Hayabusa-2.
The MINERVA-II1 robots have already sent some images back to Earth, which were basically of the rock formations they landed in (what else did we expect?). One of the images showed Hayabusa-2 craft hovering above.
— The Life Pile (@thelifepile) August 22, 2018
The landing is only the first phase of the Hayabusa-2 mission to Ryugu. In October the spacecraft will drop a bomb onto Ryugu to blast a hole and make it possible for the rovers to collect rock samples from its depth.
After that, it will land the French-German Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT), a small robotic vehicle that can explore Ryugu’s surface in greater details.