According to a recent announcement by Japan’s space agency, Japan’s space probe Hayabusa2 which is hovering close to the asteroid Ryugu in space, has successfully launched two small robotic rovers that have also successfully landed on the asteroid.
Pictures of the asteroid, which is about 300 million km away from Earth, have been taken by the two MINERVA-II-1 rovers which are currently on the asteroid and which were released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) while making the announcement.
The aim of putting the two rovers on the asteroid also includes a number of scientific chores such as measuring the temperature on the surface of the asteroid. This is a preparation before the space agency planned attempts to land the probe itself on the asteroid sometime in late October.
According to the information released by JAXA, the size of each one of the rovers is almost 18 centimeters in diameter, 7 cm in height with a weight of about 1 kg. The desingtign and programming of the rovers have been so done that they are able to “hop” around on the surface of the asteroid because of the low gravity of the asteroid which would have hindered the conventional method of utilising robotic explorers which roll on eth surface either ron wheels or on tracks.
JAXA said, the Hayabusa2 had been travelling in a measured manner in space for the more than last three years and it was on June 27 that it managed to reach the intended destination which was to be close enough to the asteroid to be able to launch the rovers and later be put on the asteroid.
The 600-kg Hayabusa2 has travelled through a distance of opver 3.2 billion km in space since it was launched in December 2014 from the Tanegashima Space Center in south western Japan and according to the Japanese space agency there has been no problem with the space craft so far.
The space craft is expected to collect rock samples from the asteroid, where it is anticipated to be land three times, said the agency. It added that the Hayabusa2 craft would remain close to the asteroid for a total of one and half years.
The over arching mission objective3s of the space craft is to find clues about the solar systems evolution and the beginning of life itself, and according to JAXA, this will be done through a number of exploratory activities by it on the asteroid.
The Hayabusa2 is expected to complete its mission in 2020 when it is expected to return back to Earth along with the samples of rocks that it would collect from the asteroid. It is also believed that the asteroid Ryugu could also contain water and some other materials which would possibly be able to support life. In 2005, Hayabusa2’s predecessor failed to land an explorer robot on the asteroid Itokawa.
(Adapted from Xinhuanet.com)