The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 has released two rovers on 21 September to the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. The names of the rovers are Minerva-II1A and Minerva-II1B.
After a few hours of losing contact with them because of the rotation of the asteroid, Hayabusa2 – the mothership hovering around, finally contacted the two rovers. They sent back images from the surface of the asteroid and even a short video.
The video was shot through Minerva-II1B, who caught the sun moving in the sky as the sunlight shines over the asteroid’s rocks.
JAXA posted on Twitter the images and video, adding:
“Please take a moment to enjoy ‘standing’ on this new world.”
The rover took 1 hour and 14 minutes to shoot the video on 22 September. The rovers cannot “walk” on the asteroid, so to move on the surface, they would hop around. A single hop can cover a horizontal distance of 15 meters. However, they can spend about 15 minutes to land because the asteroid has a weak gravity.
The two rovers took photos as they leaped, and they look quite distorted because they were in motion. Here are three shots taken by Minerva-II1B while in mid-leap.
Minerva-II1A took photos of its shadow as it rested on the surface of the asteroid before hopping again. You can see the antenna and the “pin” in the photo below. The pin helps the rover with friction as it jumps and protects the solar cells when the tiny robot lands. This device also measures the surface temperature of the asteroid, stated JAXA officials.
In another shot, Minerva-II1A found a weird rock formation, which looks like a football.
The two rovers will soon get some company when Hayabusa2 deploys a lander called MASCOT in October. Then, in 2019, the mothership will drop another hopping rover, Minerva-II2. Next year, Hayabusa2 will land on the surface of the asteroid to gather samples and bring them to Earth 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.