Ryugu’s Surface Photographed By The Two Japanese Rovers In Mid-Jump

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Last week, JAXA made history after it landed the two hopping rovers on the Ryugu asteroid. Ever since the connection was reestablished, the small rovers started sending photos and a video to the mothership Hayabusa2. The images arrived on Earth a few days ago, and they show the rocky surface of the asteroid, the sun, and the shadows of one of the rovers.

The asteroid is 160 million km far from Earth. Imagine hopping on a rock that far from home! JAXA posted on Twitter a video, saying:

“Rover-1B succeeded in shooting a movie on Ryugu’s surface! The movie has 15 frames captured on September 23, 2018 from 10:34 – 11:48 JST. Enjoy ‘standing’ on the surface of this asteroid!”

Rover 1A and Rover 1B (named Minerva-II1A and Minerva-II1B) were launched on 21 September by Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which took three and a half years to make it to the asteroid. Each rover weighs about one kilogram and is the size and the shape of a cookie tin. They don’t have wheels to roll on the surface of the asteroid, but they hop using a solar-powered internal mass that rotates and generates force.

As the rover landed on the asteroid, it captured a few photos, and a Twitter user called Transferrins created this interesting stop-motion animation to show the journey towards the surface of the asteroid.

“Our MINERVA-II1 rovers have sent back more images from the surface of Ryugu” – Twitter/[email protected]

The images show Ryugu’s surface, a landscape filled with rugged rocks – the first one seen in space on such a space object.

Ryugu is 900 meters wide and is believed to be a C-type asteroid, making it pretty ancient – over 4 billion years old when the Solar System was very young. Researchers hope that samples from the asteroid will help them learn more about the evolution of the solar system and our planet as well.

The rovers will also measure the temperature on the asteroid, and collect material from under the asteroid. The next month, a lander called MASCOT will join the party.