Hello to you Bennu!

Bennu Asteroid (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona via AP)

There’s so much fun space exploration going on right now. With the Mars Insight Lander and the Japanese landing on an asteroid, among many other exciting new projects.

Now the Americans are about to try to replicated the success of the Japanese. Yesterday, after a two year journey, a spacecraft transporting the robotic explorer dubbed Osiris-Rex arrived at another asteroid, this one named Bennu. It’s currently orbiting the asteroid at a mere 19km and will get closer as the days go on.

Bennu is thought to be about 500 meters across and is about 122 million km away from Earth. The spacecraft will orbit it for a year before scooping just over 60 grams of material and sending back to earth. Its booty is expected back around 2023.

The purpose of the mission is to better understand the birth of the solar system, as the asteroid is thought to date back 4.5 billion years, around the time the solar system came into existence.

Bennu is also thought to be something of a risk for us, as it’s getting closer and closer to Earth with every pass. They predict it could hit the Earth in about 150 years and cause significant damage. From this mission, they also hope to be better able to understand how to avert that potential calamity.

Read more:

Nasa probe reaches Bennu asteroid that could one day hit Earth

NASA spacecraft arrives at ancient asteroid, its 1st visitor

Japan Lands Rovers on Asteroid

Ryugu

Ryugu, seen here, is a diamond shape asteroid about 1km across.

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:

Photo from MINERVA-II1

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.

Read more: JAPAN’S SPACE ROVERS SEND PICTURES BACK AFTER FIRST EVER SUCCESSFUL LANDING ON ASTEROID