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article imageHyabusa2 rovers send back stunning images of Ryugu

By Karen Graham     Sep 27, 2018 in Science
On September 21, the Japanese space agency JAXA made history by safely landing two tiny rovers on the rugged terrain of an asteroid. The first images were astounding, simply because they proved the little rovers were working, but check out the new images.
“I cannot find words to express how happy I am that we were able to realize mobile exploration on the surface of an asteroid” enthused Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa2 Project Project Manager, “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.”
Rover 1A and Rover 1B were dropped by Hayabusa 2, the mothership, 60 meters above the asteroid's surface, and this was a moment of anxiety for all concerned because of the rough terrain on Ryugu. And waiting for the first images that would prove the little rovers were safe was nerve-wracking.
But the little rovers proved to be sturdy, easily moving across the rocky terrain with hopping motions using a motor-powered internal mass that rotates to generate inertia, propelling the rovers across the surface.
But the biggest surprise is the images coming back from Ryugu. They are actually better than the very first images, primarily because of their clarity - Yes, the images show a dry, rocky object with plenty of rubble littering its surface, and then you have to stop and remember it is an image of a space object 180 million miles (290 million kilometers) from Earth.
This image was taken just before Rover-1B hopped. Photograph snapped on September 23  2018 at about ...
This image was taken just before Rover-1B hopped. Photograph snapped on September 23, 2018 at about 09:46 JST [2/6]
The rovers are equipped with wide-angle and stereo cameras to send back pictures. Spine-like projections from the edges of the hoppers are sensors that will measure surface temperatures on the asteroid. The asteroid, 162173 Ryugu belongs to a very primitive type of asteroid.
The majority of asteroids fall into three main groups: C-type, M-type, and S-type. These were named after and are generally identified with carbon-rich, metallic, and silicate (stony) compositions, respectively. The size of asteroids varies greatly; the largest is almost 1,000 km (625 mi) across.
This image was captured on September 23  2018 at 10:10 JST by Rover-1B after landing. [3/6]
This image was captured on September 23, 2018 at 10:10 JST by Rover-1B after landing. [3/6]
Ryugu is classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid of the Apollo group. Interestingly, it is classified as both a C-type asteroid and a G-type asteroid. G-type asteroids are a relatively uncommon type of carbonaceous asteroid and make up about 5.0 percent of all asteroids. Ceres 1 is a G-type asteroid.
With Ryugu's classification, it is thought to be billions of years old, making the asteroid a relic left over from the early days of our Solar System, so studying it could shed light on the origin and evolution of our own planet.
More about Hyabusa2 rovers, asteroid Ryugu, primitive relic, Solar system, Images
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