JAXA's Hayabusa 2 mission is one of the most ambitious in the history of asteroid research. The Japanese space agency's craft is currently hanging out with an asteroid named Ryugu. Not content to just observe, the spacecraft already deposited two rovers and a lander the space rock's surface.
JAXA plans to have Hayabusa 2 gather a sample of Ryugu and bring it back to Earth in late 2020. The spacecraft is a sequel to the original Hayabusa mission, which returned a tiny bit of an asteroid back in 2010.
The two small Minerva rovers pose with the housing that shielded them onboard Hayabusa 2. Both rovers successfully reached the surface of asteroid Ryugu in September. One even sent back a short movie taken on the asteroid.
Hayabusa 2 got a great shot of the asteroid's surface when it closed in on Ryugu in order to drop off the Minerva rovers in September. This image shows off the asteroid's rocky, boulder-strewn landscape and is the highest-resolution view released yet.
Published:Caption:Amanda KooserPhoto:JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University, AIST
Rover gets a surface shot
Minerva rover 1B got a close-up look at Ryugu's inhospitable-looking surface on Sept. 23, just before it hopped into a new position.
The Minerva rovers weren't Hayabusa 2's only emissaries to the asteroid. The Mascot lander, developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and French space agency CNES, touched down on Ryugu in early October.
Mascot is the light-colored, box-shaped machine tucked into its mount on Hayabusa 2 in this photo.
Hayabusa 2 sidled up near the asteroid in order to deploy Mascot. Mascot successfully operated for over 16 hours on battery power. It took images of the surface and studied the asteroid's temperature and magnetic field.