Another success for the exploration of space, technology and science has just been reached by the Japanese probe Hayabusa 2. After five long years of travel in our solar system, in fact, the probe has dropped the two robots 1A and 1B which have successfully landed on the Ryugu asteroid, 300 million km from the Earth
Ryugu (official name 1999 JU3) is an asteroid of about 400 meters in diameter that rotates on itself in about 7.6 hours. The probe Hayabusa 2 remained in orbit for about 18 months during which it was able to study the asteroid in depth, also to plan the subsequent landing of the robots and the lander.
The two robots were brought to the surface of the asteroid by a small probe, Minerva-II1, which protected them during the landing phase. Once touched the surface, the two little robots came out of the probe and began to move … jumping! In fact, these little robots will not conventionally move with wheels but jumps up to fifteen minutes.
This is a historic achievement: even though scientists had previously been able to bring artifacts on the surface of an asteroid (the previous Hayabusa mission) or a comet (the lander Philae), this is the first time that a robot mobile lands successfully on the surface of an asteroid.
Currently the two robots are doing well, are operating according to normal parameters and are transmitting data and images on Earth thanks to a radio bridge enabled by the mother probe, left in orbit. The photos are a little ‘move, because of the first hops, but certainly in the coming days the image quality will progressively improve.
The two robots, in addition to taking photographs from the surface, will also measure the ground temperature in the different sites they visit and in a few months will have company: in fact a third robot eagerly waits to go down on the asteroid, as well as the MASCOT lander (Mobile Asteroid Surface SCOuT), made in Germany. The latter carries four scientific instruments on board: a microscope operating in the infrared, a camera, a three-axis magnetometer and a radiometer.
And the mother probe, Hayabusa 2? The peregrine falcon will have a task even more spectacular, however, already successful with the previous mission: to bring back to Earth samples of rock from the asteroid. To do this, it will approach the surface enough to collect samples with a robotic arm. Carried out its task, the probe will return to Earth presumably for 2020.