SEP 30, 2018 07:14 PM PDT

JAXA's Hayabusa 2 Rovers Deliver First Images Depicting What it's Like On An Asteroid

It wasn’t long ago that JAXA’s asteroid-sampling Hayabusa 2 mission arrived at the asteroid 162173 Ryugu. When it got there, it became the first space mission to deploy two rovers, named Minerva-II1A and Minerva-II1B, on the surface of an asteroid.

An image of 162173 Ryugu's surface captured during JAXA's Hayabusa 2 mission.

Image Credit: JAXA

As you can probably imagine, JAXA didn’t put two expensive rovers on an asteroid’s surface for the heck of it; instead, they're equipped with high-definition cameras that can snap crisp photographs of the asteroid’s surface for the sake of scientific research.

Since arriving there, the rovers have already delivered their initial round of photographs showcasing 162173 Ryugu’s surface to scientists on Earth. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the pictures depict a bland, rocky, and cold place that appears unlikely to support alien life.

In the video below, you can see a lot more of the photographs captured by the rovers, including a time lapse where the Sun appears to move across the sky from left to right:

In one of the pictures, we can see the shadow of the rover being cast by the Sun. Parts of the rover, including the antenna and pin are visible in the shadow.

"I cannot find words to express how happy I am that we were able to realize mobile exploration on the surface of an asteroid," explained Hayabusa 2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda in response to the breathtaking photographs sent back by the mission.

Related: Meet the rare binary asteroid that was recently validated by NASA

Like most space rovers, Minerva-II1A and Minerva-II1B don’t stay in one spot for too long, but they don’t roll around on wheels like those placed on Mars by NASA. Instead, the rovers take advantage of 162173 Ryugu’s nearly non-existent gravitational influence by ‘jumping’ from one place to another with the help of an internal rotating counterweight mechanism.

In October, the Hayabusa 2 mission will move beyond Minerva-II1A and Minerva-II1B and deploy a lander dubbed MASCOT to study the asteroid’s surface in more detail. Then, next year, the spacecraft will deploy another rover called Minerva-II2 to pick up where its predecessors left off.

Before the mission comes to an end, however, the asteroid-orbiting primary spacecraft will get close enough to 162173 Ryugu’s surface to kick up some material and collect samples that it will then bring back to Earth for analysis.

Related: How much damage could an asteroid impact do to the Earth?

As space exploration takes us to bodies residing further away in the solar system, scientists will hopefully uncover some answers concerning how the Earth formed and how we all got here. After all, that’s the main reason humankind is so interested in studying the universe beyond our planet.

Source: JAXA via Space.com

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
AUG 05, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 05, 2018
These 9 Astronauts Will Participate in NASA's First Commercial Crewed Missions
NASA astronauts haven’t launched from American soil since the Space Shuttle program’s retirement in 2011. Instead, they’ve been riding sh...
AUG 20, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 20, 2018
Martian Dust Storm Begins Clearing, Sparking Hope for the Opportunity Rover
Back in June, Mars became enveloped by a planet-wide dust storm. The dust from the storm blocked so much sunlight that NASA felt compelled to put its solar...
AUG 26, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 26, 2018
NASA's OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Snaps its First Picture of Bennu
NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission is now one step closer to realizing...
AUG 29, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 29, 2018
New Horizons Spacecraft Photographs its Next Flyby Target
Immediately following New Horizons’ historic Pluto fly-by in 2015, NASA began planning the spacecraft’s next fly-by mission. The space agency u...
AUG 29, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 29, 2018
Ever Wonder How Long it Takes to Get to Mars? Watch This
Sending missions to Mars isn’t as easy as it may seem at first glance. The solar system is continuously shifting as planets orbit the Sun, so it&rsqu...
SEP 03, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 03, 2018
The Moon is Close, So Why Don't We Colonize it Instead of Mars?
If you’ve been paying any attention to NASA and SpaceX lately, then you might’ve caught wind about their mutual interest in colonizing Mars wit...
Loading Comments...