Japanese space robots just landed on an asteroid (and took incredible photos)
MINERVA II1a and MINERVA II1b are pretty mean photographers. When it comes to space travel, human beings are just getting started. Robots on the other hand are way ahead.
We have the Curiosity Rover doing its thing on Mars, the Parker Solar Probe is en route to the sun.
And now JAXA, the Japanese Space Agency, has landed two rovers on a goddamn asteroid. Best of all: They’ve sent back photographs.
We are sorry we have kept you waiting! MINERVA-II1 consists of two rovers, 1a & 1b. Both rovers are confirmed to have landed on the surface of Ryugu. They are in good condition and have transmitted photos & data. We also confirmed they are moving on the surface. #asteroidlanding — HAYABUSA2@JAXA (@haya2e_jaxa) September 22, 2018
The MINERVA rovers were launched from Japan’s Hayabusa 2 probe, which has been orbiting an asteroid called Ryuga for a few months now. The probe is on an asteroid sample-return mission, and is planning to survey the asteroid and return to Earth in December 2020.
This is a picture from MINERVA-II1. The color photo was captured by Rover-1A on September 21 around 13:08 JST, immediately after separation from the spacecraft. Hayabusa2 is top and Ryugu’s surface is below. The image is blurred because the rover is spinning. #asteroidlanding pic.twitter.com/CeeI5ZjgmM — HAYABUSA2@JAXA (@haya2e_jaxa) September 22, 2018
Two MINERVA rovers were deployed on Sept. 21 and both have successfully landed. The first shot sent back can be seen above. It’s a little blurry — mainly because the rover was spinning when it took the shot.
Photo taken by Rover-1B on Sept 21 at ~13:07 JST. It was captured just after separation from the spacecraft. Ryugu’s surface is in the lower right. The misty top left region is due to the reflection of sunlight. 1B seems to rotate slowly after separation, minimising image blur. pic.twitter.com/P71gsC9VNI — HAYABUSA2@JAXA (@haya2e_jaxa) September 22, 2018
The above image is much clearer. Yep, that’s the asteroid itself in the bottom right corner of the photo.
This dynamic photo was captured by Rover-1A on September 22 at around 11:44 JST. It was taken on Ryugu’s surface during a hop. The left-half is the surface of Ryugu, while the white region on the right is due to sunlight. (Hayabusa2 Project) pic.twitter.com/IQLsFd4gJu — HAYABUSA2@JAXA (@haya2e_jaxa) September 22, 2018
Above is the latest shot to be sent back from the Hayabusa probe and it is absolutely incredible.
Hayabusa intends to land a larger rover, called MASCOT, in October this year. The project hopes to bring asteroid samples back to Earth when it returns in December next year.