Hayabusa-2 drops another lander on the surface of Ryugu

Hayabusa-2, Japan’s asteroid-orbiting probe, has put another miniature lander on the surface of Ryugu.

The box-shaped lander, Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT, was designed by a team of engineers from Germany and France.

Engineers at the German Aerospace Center, DLR, confirmed MASCOT’s safe landing on the asteroid’s surface.

“It could not have gone better,” MASCOT project manager Tra-Mi Ho, scientist at the DLR Institute of Space Systems, said in a news release. “From the lander’s telemetry, we were able to see that it separated from the mothercraft, and made contact with the asteroid surface approximately 20 minutes later.”

The German space agency shared images captured by MASCOT on Twitter.

Hello #Earth, hello @haya2kun! I promised to send you some pictures of #Ryugu so here’s a shot I took during my descent. Can you spot my shadow? #AsteroidLanding pic.twitter.com/dmcilFl5ms- MASCOT Lander (@MASCOT2018) October 3, 2018

MASCOT is outfitted with a small infrared spectroscopic microscope, designed to analyze the composition of Ryugu’s surface. MASCOT also boasts a thermal radiometer to measure electromagnetic radiation and magnetometer to detect magnetic fields.

Like the two MINERVA-II1 rovers dropped to Ryugu last month, MASCOT has a hopping function to help it move across the asteroid. It can also hop to reorient itself, so its communication antenna is facing Hayabusa-2.

Scientists believe Ryugu was formed not long after the birth of the solar system and could offer scientists insights into how the solar system formed and evolved.

“With MASCOT, we have the unique opportunity to study the Solar System’s most primordial material directly on an asteroid,” said DLR planetary researcher Ralf Jaumann. “Asteroids are very primordial celestial bodies.”

Hayabusa-2 is done releasing its litter of landers, but at the end of the month, the probe will descend to surface level, using a robotic arm to collect surface materials from the asteroid’s surface. The samples will be returned to Earth for analysis.

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