Space robots sent hurtling toward asteroid

Federico Mansilla
Setiembre 22, 2018

Two of the the mission's four rovers will be deployed from the Hayabusa-2, touching down on the asteroid Friday.

The Hayabusa 2 spacecraft has sent two small robotic probes toward the asteroid Ryugu, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced on September 21.

The Hayabusa2 probe jettisoned the round, cookie tin-shaped robots toward the Ryugu astroid, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

If they land successfully, they will become the first ever mobile robots to conduct observations on an asteroid.

"This is probably due to the rotation to Ryugu, and MINERVA-II1 is now on the far side of the asteroid", JAXA officials said.

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Taking advantage of the asteroid's low gravity, they will jump around on the surface - soaring as high as 15 meters and staying in the air for as long as 15 minutes - to survey the asteroid's physical features with cameras and sensors.

The Hayabusa2 mother ship has already begun descending toward Ryugu in advance of the deployment, and the spacecraft is snapping photos of the asteroid for navigation purposes.

The explorers, developed by institutes such as JAXA and the University of Aizu, are 18 centimeters in diameter and 7 centimeters in height.

Hayabusa2 is scheduled to drop the MASCOT observation lander, made by German and French organizations, onto Ryugu on October 3.

The pair of cylindrical Minerva-II rovers were basically flung off the Japanese Space Agency's Hayabusa-2 spacecraft on Thursday.

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