A Japanese Space probe has landed a brand-new observation robot on Asteroid Ryugu, in hopes of unlocking the mysteries surrounding the origins of our solar system.
JAXA has landed the French-German Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT launched from the Hayabusa2. The robot has a weight of ten kilograms and is shaped like a box.
Packed with a number of instruments, MASCOT will collect important data about the asteroid, currently traveling some 300 million kilometers away from Earth.
MASCOT was launched ten days after Hayabusa2 dropped a pair of MINERVA-II micro-rovers on the Ryugu asteroid, which have already begun studying the space rock.
The mission marks the first time scientists have successfully landed moving, robotic observation devices on the surface of an asteroid.
MASCOT is expected to photographs surface images at multiple wavelengths, as well as investigate minerals on the asteroid’s surface with a microscope. MASCOT is also expected to gauge surface temperatures and measure magnetic fields.
— MASCOT Lander (@MASCOT2018) October 3, 2018
Unlike the MINERVA-II micro-rovers that successfully landed on the asteroid’s surface some 10 days ago, MASCOT is a largely immobile rover. While the MINERVA-II micro-rovers will perform a number of jumps in order to accurately study the asteroid, MASCOT only has the ability to perform one jump. It can also turn on its sides.
The MINERVA-II micro-rovers are expected to study the surface of the asteroid for the next couple of months. However, MASCOT only has enough battery power to collect data for sixteen hours.
Before it runs out of battery, MASCOT will transmit all data as well as images to the Hayabusa2 spacecraft.
Later this month, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft will launch a ‘missile’ that will explode above the asteroid’s surface.
By shooting a two-kilo copper object, scientists expect to blast a small crater into the asteroid’s surface, allowing the probe to however above the impact area and collect samples using an extended arm.
With the blast, scientists expect to obtain never-before-seen data from materials that have been left unexposed to millennia of radiation and solar wind, hoping to answer some of the most important questions about how life came into existence, and how our universe formed.
The Hayabusa2 mission was launched in December 2014 and will return to Earth with fresh samples in 2020.