Pictures and rocks from asteroid Ryugu

 

Pictures and rock samples from asteroid Ryugu

Japan's space agency (JAXA) has made history by successfully landing two robotic explorers on the surface of asteroid Ryugu (Picture). The picture was taken by one of the rovers on the asteroid's surface (Picture). The white area on the right is due to sunlight.

The two small "rovers", will move around the 1km-wide space rock known as Ryugu. The asteroid's low gravity means they can hop across it, capturing temperatures and images of the surface. The satellite reached the asteroid Ryugu in June 2018 after a three-and-a-half-year journey.

While the European Space Agency had previously managed to land on an icy comet, this is the first spacecraft to place robot rovers on the surface of an asteroid.

Asteroids are essentially leftover building materials from the formation of the Solar System 4.6 billion years ago. Ryugu is a particularly primitive variety, and studying it could shed light on the origin and evolution of our own planet.

Ryugu's surface is rougher-than-expected surface. The 1kg rovers are equipped with wide-angle and stereo cameras to send back pictures. Spine-like projections will measure surface temperatures on the asteroid.

On 3 October 2018, the mothership will deploy a lander called Mascot and in late October, Hayabusa-2 will descend to the surface of Ryugu to collect a sample of rock and soil.

Later on an explosive charge will be detonated that will punch a crater into the surface of Ryugu. Fresh rocks will be collected that have not been altered by aeons of exposure to the environment of space. These samples will be sent to Earth for laboratory studies.

The spacecraft will leave Ryugu in December 2019 and return to Earth with the asteroid samples in 2020.