28th September 2018
First video from the surface of an asteroid
The Japanese Hayabusa2 probe, which arrived at Ryugu back in June, has returned the first ever video from the surface of an asteroid.
Due to limited power and bandwidth, the resolution is somewhat low. Nevertheless, the 15-frame clip shows enough detail to characterise the surface environment of this rock, which is 1 km (0.6 miles) in diameter and follows an elliptical orbit roughly between Earth and Mars. Its rugged and uneven terrain is strewn with many boulders, while harsh light from the blazing Sun appears in the jet-black sky, uninterrupted by any atmosphere.
Hayabusa2 was launched by the Japanese space agency JAXA in December 2014. It began orbital insertion in June 2018. Last week, two small rovers were deployed on the surface and began taking photos. They are moving around with a series of "hops", since the gravity is too low for wheels. Two additional rovers will join them later.
The science phase of the mission will last until December 2019 and the orbiting spacecraft will return samples to Earth in 2020. It is hoped that water and organic materials in these samples will provide clues to explain the origin of life.
More images and ongoing updates are available on the official website: http://www.hayabusa2.jaxa.jp/en/
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