Asteroid rovers send home new photos
MINERVA-II-1 rovers offer slightly tilted closeups of rocky surface from different locations
New photos taken on the surface of an asteroid show that it is (drum roll, please) ... rocky.
It may be no surprise, but Japan space agency scientists and engineers are thrilled by the images being sent to Earth by two jumping robotic rovers that they dropped onto an asteroid about 280 million kilometres (170 million miles) away.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency posted the latest photos on its website late Thursday. They show slightly tilted close-ups of the rocky surface from different locations.
Rover-1B succeeded in shooting a movie on Ryugu’s surface! The movie has 15 frames captured on September 23, 2018 from 10:34 - 11:48 JST. Enjoy ‘standing’ on the surface of this asteroid! [6/6] <a href="https://t.co/57avmjvdVa">pic.twitter.com/57avmjvdVa</a>—@haya2e_jaxa
"I cannot find words to express how happy I am that we were able to realize mobile exploration on the surface of an asteroid," project manager Yuichi Tsuda said on the space agency's website.
It took more than three years for the unmanned Hayabusa2 spacecraft to reach the vicinity of asteroid Ryugu. One week ago, the craft successfully dropped a small capsule with two rovers onto its surface. The rovers, each about the size of circular cookie tin, don't have wheels but jump around the asteroid.
As Hayabusa2 descended towards Ryugu to deploy the MINERVA-II1 rovers, the ONC-T camera snapped the highest resolution image yet of the asteroid surface!<a href="https://t.co/JDbk29RXHG">https://t.co/JDbk29RXHG</a> <a href="https://t.co/KFsLet5BMJ">pic.twitter.com/KFsLet5BMJ</a>—@haya2e_jaxa
Hayabusa2 is scheduled to drop a German-French lander with four observation devices onto the asteroid next week. It later will attempt to land on the asteroid itself to collect samples to send back to researchers on Earth.
The landing of the MINERVA-II1 rovers is getting <a href="https://twitter.com/MASCOT2018?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MASCOT2018</a> & <a href="https://twitter.com/haya2kun?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@haya2kun</a> geared up for deployment next week! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AsteroidLanding?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AsteroidLanding</a> <a href="https://t.co/Sa4HsDGzeN">https://t.co/Sa4HsDGzeN</a>—@haya2e_jaxa
With files from The Associated Press