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Rovers Send Back First Photos of Asteroid Surface

'Jumping' robots are now on Ryugu
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 28, 2018 12:21 AM CDT
This Sept. 23, 2018 image captured by Rover-1B, and provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the surface of asteroid Ryugu.   (JAXA via AP)
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(Newser) – New photos taken on the surface of an asteroid show that it is (drum roll, please) ... rocky. It may be no surprise, but Japanese space agency scientists and engineers are thrilled by the images being sent to Earth by two jumping robotic rovers that they dropped onto an asteroid about 170 million miles away. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency posted the latest photos on its website late Thursday. They show slightly tilted close-ups of the rocky surface from different locations. "I cannot find words to express how happy I am that we were able to realize mobile exploration on the surface of an asteroid," project manager Yuichi Tsuda said on the space agency's website.

It took more than three years for the unmanned Hayabusa2 spacecraft to reach the vicinity of asteroid Ryugu, the AP reports. Last week, the craft successfully dropped a small capsule with two rovers onto its surface. The rovers, each about the size of circular cookie tin, don't have wheels but jump around the asteroid. Hayabusa2 is scheduled to drop a German-French lander with four observation devices onto the asteroid next week. It later will attempt to land on the asteroid itself to collect samples to send back to researchers on Earth. The asteroid is believed to be a leftover from the early days of our solar system and studying it could provide insight into how our planet formed, the BBC reports.

(Read more asteroid stories.)

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