Japan’s space agency reports that over 200 photos that have been taken by two small rovers on an asteroid are showing that there are no signs of a smooth area for the touchdown that has been planned for the spacecraft in 2019.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency stated this week that the two solar-powered rovers have become inactive and this means that they’re probably in the shade. They are reportedly still responding to signals after three months, and they have exceeded already their projected life of several days.
The Minerva II-1 rovers are quite similar to round cookie tins, and they have been dropped by the unmanned Hayabusa 2 spacecraft onto asteroid Ryugu about 280 million km (170 million miles) from Earth back in September in order to collect data and surface information.
Most of the photos are showing a rocky surface on the asteroid and some challenges for Hayabusa2’s planned touchdown.
This has already been postponed from late October, and some images have been showing that the surface was rockier than experts were expecting.
The potential landing spots have been narrowed down
JAXA said that they have narrowed down the potential landing spots and they are still planning to try and make a touchdown in order to collect some samples.
Experts are analyzing data that has been sent by the rovers to finalize plans.
CTVNews reports that “One of the two rovers is believed to have traveled about 300 meters (yards) by hopping on the asteroid, where gravity is too weak for wheeled vehicles and has sent more than 200 photos and other data to the spacecraft, which then relayed it to Earth, Kubota said.”
It was also reported that “The other rover took about 40 photos and stopped moving after about ten days, he said. The lower-than-expected surface temperature of the asteroid may have helped slow the rovers’ deterioration, Kubota said.”
Asteroids which orbit the Sun but are smaller than planets are usually among the oldest objects in the solar system and they may help in explaining Earth’s evolution.
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