Japanese space agency releases incredible new images after landing on asteroid 1 year ago

Japanese space agency releases incredible new images after landing on asteroid

This is the first time a spacecraft has successfully landed on a fast-moving asteroid body

The Japanese Space Agency (Jaxa) has released new photographs after landing two rovers on the surface of the asteroid, Ryugu.

Hayabusa 2, known as the "mothership", reached the asteroid in June after a three-and-a-half year journey. On Friday it descended to within 60m of the surface and released two rovers, the efficiently named Robot 1A and 1B, which are both now currently working on its surface.

Jaxa

This is the very first-time rovers have ever landed on the surface of an asteroid, and the pictures show the rocky terrain of Ryugu in incredible detail.


Jaxa

In the above image, you can see the shadow of the antenna and pin of the rover itself, which helps increase friction when the robots hop around the surface.

Jaxa

The robots weigh 1kg and travel by jumping, using the asteroid's low gravity to help and they move and take pictures autonomously.

Jaxa

Jaxa says both 1A and 1B are "in good condition and are transmitting images and data". The two rovers will eventually be joined by another built by scientists in Germany and France - Mascot - that will further explore the surface.

Jaxa

The asteroid, previously known as 162173 Ryugu, is around 1km in diameter and roughly spherical. It orbits the Sun at a distance between 0.96 and 1.41 AU (the distance between the Sun and the Earth is 1 astronomical unit) every 16 months.

It is believed to asteroids such as Ryugu are remnants of the solar system’s creation about 4.5 billion years ago. This unprecedented look at the asteroid could hold the key to uncovering more of our system's ancient history.