Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

Japan's Hayabusa2 space probe deploys rovers towards asteroid

Japanese Probe Deploys Tiny Hopping Robots Toward Big Asteroid Ryugu Japan is about to land two rovers on the surface of an asteroid
Elijah Vega | 24 September, 2018, 03:32

Japanese station arrived at the asteroid in June. The robots move by hopping because extremely weak gravity makes rolling hard. "Gravity on the surface of Ryugu is very weak, so a rover propelled by normal wheels or crawlers would float upwards as soon as it started to move", mission team members wrote in a MINERVA-II1 description.

The probe will also release a French-German landing vehicle named Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (Mascot) for surface observation.

According to JAXA mission managers, the agency confirmed at 1:35 p.m. on September 21 that the two had been released by Hayabusa 2. Each hop lasts 15 minutes.

Unfortunately, JAXA engineers will need to wait a couple of days to receive confirmation that the rovers are ready to perform their scientific duties.

"We are very hopeful", said Yuichi Tsuda, one of the project leaders from JAXA, at a press conference. We don't have confirmation yet, but we are very, very hopeful. "I am looking forward to seeing pictures".

JAXA did lose contact due to asteroid Ryugu's rotation before they could confirm any images from the landing itself.

Some of the projections from the rover edge that looks like thorns are temperature sensors to measure the surface temperature of Ryugu.

Rescue mission to reach injured Indian sailor
Most of the 11 competitors still in the race were further north and avoided the worst of the storm, organisers said. In particular Estonian skipper Uku Randmaa is within range, some 450 miles to the west of Thuriya .

"Most likely, this is due to the rotation of the Ryuga, and MINERVA-II1 is on the far side of the asteroid, said the Agency".

JAXA also revealed it had lost communication with the robots, writing: Communication with MINERVA-II1 has now stopped.

If successful, it will be the world's first observation of the surface of an asteroid by a moving rover.

The probe will then collect fresh materials from inside the crater which have not been exposed to wind and radiation.

The Hayabusa2 mission was launched in December 2014 and will return to Earth with its samples in 2020.

The cautious announcement came after a similar JAXA probe in 2005 released a rover that failed to reach its target asteroid.

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