Japanese space agency lands rovers on asteroid

Japanese space agency lands rovers on asteroid

Japanese space agency lands rovers on asteroid

A series of specially designed cameras - four on the first rover and three on the second - will take stereo images of the asteroid's surface.

It will also release a lander called Mascot and a large rover called Minerva-II-2 next year.

The Hayabusa2 began its approach to Ryugu from an orbiting altitude of around 20 km on Thursday afternoon.

The rovers hop across the surface, because the gravity on the Ryugu asteroid makes it impossible for them to roll. They were dropped by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which descended to a distance of just 55 metres above the asteroid's surface to deposit the rovers before returning to its customary altitude of 20km above the rocky body.

This computer graphic image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows two drum-shaped and solar-powered Minerva-II-1 rovers on an asteroid.

Once the spacecraft reaches the surface, it will fire a bullet at great speed into Ryugu, with the resulting blasted particles being collected by a catcher.

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The Japanese space agency said that it has made history by successfully landing two unmanned rovers on an asteroid.

In October, the Hayabusa2 probe will deploy an "impactor" that will explode above the asteroid, shooting a 2kg copper missile to blast a small crater into the surface.

Japan's space agency workers can now breathe easy.

Situated in an orbit between the Earth and Mars, the asteroid Ryugu is believed to be rich in water and organic materials, making it a ideal object for learning more about the possible extraterrestrial societies in the galaxy and maybe, other solar systems.

This is the first exploration of an asteroid by a rover.

While Hayabusa2 is expected to return to Earth by the end of the year 2020, CNN wrote the U.S.' own similar asteroid-sampling mission is not expected to be completed until 2023. It's an incredibly cool image, but it's just the first of what JAXA hopes will be lots of snapshots of asteroid, called Ryugu.

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