Japanese space agency JAXA recently made history after its Hayabusa 2 mission approached the asteroid 162173 Ryugu and dumped off two landers to study the asteroid’s surface.
Each lander contains powerful cameras that can snap high-detail images of the asteroid’s surface and beam them back to Earth. The hope is that we might learn something new about asteroids, the formation of the solar system, and where life on Earth came from.
The tweak landers aren’t just sitting around, however. Instead, they’re gleefully hopping about with the help of an internal mechanism that generates force via high-speed counterweight rotation. It takes advantage of the asteroid’s small gravitational influence to jump several meters at a time.
After the landers study the asteroid for an ample amount of time, the Hayabusa 2 mission will attempt to snag a surface sample and return it to Earth by the early 2020’s.
Indeed, the future looks bright for space exploration.