- A Japanese probe launched a new observation robot towards an asteroid on Wednesday as it pursues a mission to shed light on the origins of the solar system.
- The Hayabusa2 probe launched the French-German Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT, towards the Ryugu asteroid’s surface, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said.
More details about MASCOT:
- The 10-kg box-shaped MASCOT is loaded with sensors. It can take images at multiple wavelengths, investigate minerals with a microscope, gauge surface temperatures and measure magnetic fields.
- MASCOT’s launch comes 10 days after the Hayabusa2 dropped a pair of MINERVA-II micro-rovers on the Ryugu asteroid. It was the first time that moving, robotic observation device have been successfully landed on an asteroid.
- The rovers will take advantage of Ryugu’s low gravity to jump around on the surface — travelling as far as 15 metres while airborne and staying in the air for as long as 15 minutes — to survey the asteroid’s physical features with cameras and sensors. Unlike those machines, MASCOT will be largely immobile — it will “jump” just once on its mission, and it can turn on its sides. And while the rovers will spend several months on the asteroid, the MASCOT has a maximum battery life of just 16 hours, and will transmit the data it collects to the Hayabusa2 before running out of juice.
- The Hayabusa2 is scheduled later this month to deploy an “impactor” that will explode above the asteroid, shooting a two-kilo copper object into it to blast a small crater on the surface.