Space hoppers hitch ride on an asteroid

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The duo was released from Japan's Hayabusa 2 spacecraft orbiting the asteroid on Friday, September 21 and a confirmation of the successful landing came one day later.

A Japanese spacecraft released two small rovers on an asteroid in a mission that could provide clues to the origin of the solar system.

The rovers are collectively known as MINERVA-II1.

A pair of tiny JAXA robots, released by the Hayabusa2 probe, have successfully landed on the Ryugu asteroid and began transmitting images from the surface of the "potentially hazardous" object four years after the mission launch.

Measuring 18 centimeters by 7 cm and weighing roughly 1 kilogram, the two cylinder-shaped explorers will travel along the asteroid's rocky surface by using motors to hop in the low gravity.

Japan now has two rovers on an asteroid 280 million kilometres from Earth, and they've started sending back the first pictures of life on a very lonely rock.

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CBS News reports the Hayabusa2 space probe recently arrived to an asteroid known as 162173 Ryugu, where it dropped two landers created to hop around on the surface of the celestial object as it barrels through space, after being launched nearly four years ago.

Since it arrived at Ryugu, scientists have been looking for suitable landing sites on the uneven surface, and its first attempt is expected in October. The asteroid is named Ryugu, CNN reported.

"I was so moved to see these small rovers successfully explore an asteroid surface because we could not achieve this at the time of Hayabusa, 13 years ago".

Another container will deploy another hopping rover, a German/French co-operative effort called MASCOT.

After examining the far distant object and taking samples, Hayabusa2 will depart Ryugu in December 2019 before returning to Earth by the end of 2020 with its cargo of samples. Snapped while the rover was rotating, the blurred image shows Hayabusa2 at the top of the screen with the surface of Ryugu depicted at the bottom.

Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet.

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