In quite an incredible technological feat, Japan has successfully landed two robotic rovers on an asteroid that’s just 1km across.
The MINERVA-II1 rovers were launched from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft which was orbiting, the asteroid dubbed Ryugu. They sent back a few images on their way down, several which were a bit blurry, but a couple of nice ones. Including this one, which clearly shows the asteroid just before the rover touches down:
The robots are designed to capitalise on the low gravity on the asteroid, by hopping, rather than rolling, along its surface. They will send back data and images that the lead scientists hope will answer questions about the formation of the universe.
Next month the orbiting spaceship will deploy explosives to the asteroid so the rover can look below its surface. Following that, yet another rover, a collaborative effort between French and German scientists will be sent to the asteroid to explore even further.