The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) stated on Friday that their space probe Hayabusa2 was preparing to release two rovers that would explore the Ryugu Asteroid. These small robots will collect minerals on the asteroid and help scientists learn more about the origin of our solar system. But before scientists get their hands on these samples, the mission will have to go through several phases.
The First Robotic Observation On the Surface of An Asteroid
The asteroid has low gravity, so the rovers will have to hop on its surface as high as 15 meters and stay in the air for about 15 minutes to survey the asteroid and observe its features with sensors and cameras.
But to learn more about the asteroid, the Hayabusa2 probe will need to get all the data from the rovers and send it to Earth. It will take about a day or two since the release of the probe for the team on Earth to get some information, explains JAXA:
“We are very much hopeful. We don’t have confirmation yet, but we are very, very hopeful. I am looking forward to seeing pictures. I want to see images of space as seen from the surface of the asteroid,” stated the JAXA project manager Yuichi Tsuda in an interview.
Back in 2005, JAXA made a similar announcement, but the probe didn’t reach the asteroid. This time, the Japanese Agency is cautious.
Early on Friday morning, the Hayabusa2 team stated in a Twitter post the following information:
However, the wait is just a small setback, so the two Minerva-II rovers should swing back into view soon enough. If all goes according to plan and the rovers make it safe to the surface, they should keep on hopping around the asteroid and cover almost 50 meters per jump.
The next step will be in October when Hayabusa2 will send an “impactor that will blast a crater into the asteroid to get some “fresh” materials unexposed to wind and radiation. These rocks will probably answer many questions about the universe and life.
Hayabusa2 also has a French-German vehicle that should land on the asteroid to observe its surface – Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT).
The spacecraft should come back home with all the samples in 2020.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.