TOKYO -- The asteroid Ryugu has a very rugged terrain covered with myriad rocks and stones, photographs taken by two small robot observers jumping around on the celestial body show.
The pictures were beamed back across the some 300 million kilometers separating Earth and the asteroid via the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)'s Hayabusa 2 explorer. The agency made some of the pictures public on Sept. 27.
The robots released by Hayabusa 2 and landed on Ryugu on Sept. 21 had taken more than 100 pictures by Sept. 27. The two observers made a total of 13 jumps, moving about 10 to 20 meters each hop. JAXA associate professor Tetsuo Yoshimitsu, who developed the robots, said he was happy to see the devices actually at work on the asteroid. "They were successful because of the overall technological prowess of Japan," he said.
Hayabusa 2 will analyze the data collected by the two robots for its own landing on the asteroid planned for late October. The explorer is also set to release a small lander developed by the space agencies of Germany and France on Oct. 3.
(Japanese original by Tomohiro Ikeda, Science & Environment News Department)