by 👨💻 Simon Baxendale
Sending rovers into space is nothing new – there’s been more than a few iconic photos and footage captured from robots sent to the Moon, to Mars and more. However, one of the most elusive bodies to try and land on remains the asteroid – there’s plenty of them floating around, yet getting a rover or a camera of any kind to perch itself on such a free-moving piece of intergalactic rock has remained a tricky task thus far. Therefore, this week’s news regarding the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) having been able to land on such a body should be regarded as nothing short of historic.
JAXA, who are responsible for much of Japan’s space exploration, appear to have put other global agencies in their place with footage and data transmitted from two space rovers, which were launched from the Hayabusa2 space station. They’ve managed to land – and park themselves – on a sizeable asteroid known as Ryugu, which is thought to be around a kilometer wide. That’s no easy task! Though European efforts have previously landed a probe on a comet, this appears to be the first time that an asteroid has ever been landed on – an epoch-making moment in space exploration which should hopefully deliver some incredible data on what makes up the various bits of flotsam and jetsam which coast through space.
JAXA scientists are hopeful that Rover-1A and Rover-1B will be able to uncover secrets about our wider universe in the weeks and months to come. The surface and makeup of an asteroid may well help us to understand the formation of our own planet a little more clearly, for one. Hayabusa2 is already delivering images back to Earth, and ongoing news and data delivered with regard to the MINERVA-II1 is being tweeted regularly via @haya2e_jaxa.
“I cannot find words to express how happy I am that we were able to realize mobile exploration on the surface of an asteroid,” Hayabusa2’s project manager Yuichi Tsuda stated. “I am proud that Hayabusa2 was able to contribute to the creation of this technology for a new method of space exploration by surface movement on small bodies.”
▶ Two Mini-rovers On An Asteroid Just Sent Back Some Amazing Photos
It doesn’t all end there – the rovers are collecting data and delivering photos ahead of a further, larger rover launch next month. So far, however, the current project has been an immense success – sit tight for more news!
▶ Why Space Agencies Are Rushing Towards Asteroids