Japanese Spacecraft Launches New Robot On Asteroid

MASCOT Lands On Ryugu Asteroid Last Tuesday night, an observation robot landed on the asteroid Ryugu, with assistance from a space probe. Its mission was to study the solar...

MASCOT Lands On Ryugu Asteroid

Last Tuesday night, an observation robot landed on the asteroid Ryugu, with assistance from a space probe. Its mission was to study the solar system’s origins. The lander was created by Germany and France’s space agencies and is known as MASCOT or Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout that encompasses a box shape.

The lander was launched from the Hayabusa2 probe and it managed to capture an assortment of photos of the asteroid, which was 186 miles from Earth. Planetary scientist, Ralf Jaumann, thought the photos came out perfectly. “The team’s first images of the camera are therefore safe” said Jaumann.

Less than two weeks prior, Hayabusa2 dropped a pair of MINERVA-II micro-rovers on the asteroid. This made it the first time a robotic observation device successfully landed on an asteroid. After the landing, the rovers captured images by “hopping” around the Ryugu’s surface.

This is a result of Ryugu not having a strong gravitational force, so internal motors shifts and take about 15 minutes to complete. MASCOT, on the other hand, is immobile. It does move on its side and occasionally jumps once on its mission. Furthermore, its battery only has a lifespan of 16 hours. It will transfer the data to the Hayabusa2 before it dies.

Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency or JAXA also have prospects to deploy an ‘impactor’ later this month. This will indeed explode above the asteroid, blasting a small crater on the surface. The goal of MASCOT is to gather information on where crater should be created.

The mission will cost $260 million, and the samples that are being collected will return back to Earth in December 2020. Hayabusa2 was launched by Jaxa in 2014.

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