Asteroid-Hopping Robots Deployed by Hayabusa2 on Ryugu

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Shortly after the Hayabusa2 probe sent of two small rovers to approach and land on the asteroid Ryugu, the team announced on Twitter. However, as Advocator reported, the Hayabusa2 team had a small setback: they have no communication link with one of the rovers, but it might end well. Why so optimistic?

No Reason to Panic

According to the post on Twitter released by the Hayabusa2 team, there is no reason to panic yet. They will establish communication with one of the rovers in no time:

“Communication with MINERVA-II1 has currently stopped. This is probably due to the rotation to Ryugu, and MINERVA-II1 is now on the far side of the asteroid. We are currently working to confirm if there are images capturing the MINERVA-II1 landing.”

The MINERVA-II1A and MINERVA-II1B separated from Hayabusa2 at 12:06 a.m. EDT on 21 September, approaching the asteroid Ryugu.

The team established communication with both rovers but lost the link a little time after. Every 7.5 hours, the asteroid completes a rotation, so the two robots should reconnect with the spacecraft above – if they haven’t done it already.

Touching down an asteroid so far from Earth is very difficult, and the small gravitational pull of the asteroid doesn’t help either.

Nonetheless, the Hayabusa2 engineers are doing everything they can to successfully continue the mission. If everything goes according to plant, Hayabusa2 will send a bigger rover, the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) in October, and another hopping-rover – MINERVA-II2 next year.

In 2019, the mothership will also send a nonexplosive impactor to create a crater into the asteroid and collect a pristine sample of rocks and soil not exposed to radiation and space conditions.

Finally, the mission will end with a return capsule heading to Earth in December 2020. Scientists will get to study the samples from the carbon-rich asteroid and search for information on the solar system, the universe, and life’s building blocks.