Japanese Rover's Images Show No Signs Of Smooth Area On Asteroid Ryugu

Posted: Dec 14 2018, 1:58pm CST | by , Updated: Dec 14 2018, 2:04pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Japanese Rover's Images Show No Signs of Smooth Area on Asteroid Ryugu

Scientists are analyzing data collected by the rovers to determine the best landing spot for Hayabusa2 spacecraft.

New images taken from Japanese pair of rovers show that the surface of asteroid Ryugu is very uneven and rocky. Although the asteroid’s rugged surface is no surprise, it could present challenges for the planned touchdown of Hayabusa2 spacecraft early next year.

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft arrived at asteroid Ryugu in June this years after more than three years of travelling in space. In September, the spacecraft released its two MINERVA-II1 rovers which have since successfully landed and investigating the asteroid Ryugu’s surface. Then, it released a French-German landing vehicle named the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) for surface observation. It is the first time that rovers are conducting moving observations of an asteroid.

The 1 km-wide Ryugu is a carbonaceous asteroid that resides 300 million kilometers from Earth. Hayabusa2 spacecraft aims to study this asteroid with the help of four small robotic landers. Later, the spacecraft itself will land on asteroid’s surface and collect three samples. If everything goes well, the asteroid samples will be brought back to Earth in December 2020. Since the asteroid is expected to contain some of the most pristine materials in the Solar System, the analysis of this extra-terrestrial matter could provide insights into the origin and evolution of planets and help explain how Earth evolved, including its sources of water and organic compounds.

Japan's space agency plans to attempt brief touchdown on Ryugu in the coming days. The first actual landing of Hayabusa2 spacecraft is expected in late January, several months later than initially planned. Therefore, JAXA is analyzing data sent by the rovers to determine the best landing spot.

"We are extremely interested and looking forward to further analysis," said JAXA senior project member Takashi Kubota. "We hope to find anything that may help explain the origin of space and its evolution."

Hayabusa2 is the successor to JAXA's first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa which returned to Earth in 2010 with dust samples from asteroid Itokawa.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

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