When Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft launched from Earth on December 3, 2014, it had four rovers in its payload. It also had eleven inline-mounted 13.2 Ah lithium-ion batteries to provide backup power when the solar panels were in shade. The mission hopes to capture data from rovers bouncing on Ryugu, and return to Earth to help discover the origins of the universe.
Rovers Bouncing On Ryugu with Serious Intent
The Ryugu asteroid is a rectangular object a half mile in diameter, and in near-Earth space in cosmic terms. It is rich in nickel, iron, cobalt, water, nitrogen, hydrogen and ammonia, although we hope no one tries to exploit it.
On Thursday morning, September 20, 2018 parent spacecraft Hayabusa2 descended to 200 feet above Ryugu’s surface. This morning, September 21, 2018, it deposited two tiny rovers onto the asteroid surface almost 200 million miles from earth. Two more will follow and collect measurements and photos before Hayabusa2 collects a few samples itself, and heads back to Earth in a year’s time.
How the Tiny Rovers Move About on the Asteroid
We were not kidding about rovers bouncing on Ryugu asteroid. The tiny cylindrical vehicles do not have wheels. They have rotating, we assume battery-powered motors instead. These “enable the rovers to shift their momentum and hop across the surface of the asteroid” according to The Verge.
This will enable them to explore the tiny asteroid and collect data with multiple cameras and temperature sensors. Japanese scientists made them this way, because the gravity is so low they would drift away if on wheels. A similar, German rover will join the team in October followed by a final one later.
When all is done and dusted, the final act belongs to Hayabusa2. She will get close to Ryugu, and shoot her with a ‘gun-like device’ to stir and capture the samples she traveled almost 200 million miles to collect.
Preview Image: Artist’s Impression of Hayabusa2
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