Ambitious Japanese Hayabusa 2 mission to the asteroid ‘Ryugu’ is among the boldest space missions that humans have ever launched and now, for the first time, we as a species have captured video footage on the surface of an asteroid.
Rovers Minerva-II1A and II1-B were released from the Hayabusa 2 ‘mothership’ after a three-and-a-half-year journey and began hopping their way across the Ryugu asteroid’s craggy surface on Friday, September 21. Having sent back multiple still images via their wide-angle and stereo cameras, Minerva-II1B has now sent back the first video of the mission.
The two 1kg autonomous vehicles hop around the rugged landscape of the asteroid, taking advantage of its minimal gravity by leaping distances of up to 50 feet (15 meters) journeys which can take up to 15 minutes to complete given the asteroid’s low gravity.
“Please take a moment to enjoy ‘standing’ on this new world,” JAXA (Japan’s space agency) officials said in a statement. The 15-frame video was shot over the course of 1 hour and 14 minutes on September 23.
Rover-1B succeeded in shooting a movie on Ryugu’s surface! The movie has 15 frames captured on September 23, 2018 from 10:34 – 11:48 JST. Enjoy ‘standing’ on the surface of this asteroid! [6/6] pic.twitter.com/57avmjvdVa
— HAYABUSA2@JAXA (@haya2e_jaxa) September 27, 2018
In October, the Mothership Hayabusa 2 will drop a lender known as MASCOT followed by another ‘hopper’ rover, Minerva-II2, in 2019. MASCOT was developed jointly by the German Aerospace Center and the French space agency CNES. Hayabusa 2 will itself descend to the asteroid’s surface to collect samples and it is aiming to return to Earth sometime in 2020.
The 900m-wide Ryugu asteroid, formally known as 162173, is known to be a relic from the earliest days of our solar system. This Japanese complex space mission was launched to examine the space rocks in the hope of finding more clues about the formation of our planet Earth.