Boxy MASCOT lander plops itself down on asteroid Ryugu for a 17-hour survey

MASCOT lander
An artist’s conception reveals the MASCOT lander sitting on the ground of the asteroid Ryugu. (JAXA Illustration)

A robotic probe the dimensions of a shoebox set itself down on the asteroid Ryugu, higher than 180 million miles from Earth, and carried out a 17-hour survey of its rocky surroundings.

The foot-wide, German-built lander is known as MASCOT, which stands for Cell Asteroid Ground Scout. It was ejected from Japan’s Hayabusa 2 probe from a peak of 51 meters (167 toes) and drifted downward to Ryugu at strolling tempo.

“It could not have gone greater,” Tra-Mi Ho, MASCOT enterprise supervisor on the DLR Institute of Home Strategies, acknowledged right now in a standing change. “From the lander’s telemetry, we’ve been able to see that it separated from the mothercraft and made contact with the asteroid flooring roughly 20 minutes later.”

MASCOT took a picture of its private shadow on Ryugu’s flooring as a result of it descended:

The lander is equipped with a swing arm to maneuver itself throughout the ground. It needed to make use of the arm to relocate itself and get oriented accurately to assemble scientific data, mission managers acknowledged in a tweet.

MASCOT’s lifetime was restricted because of it’s powered by onboard lithium batteries. It was anticipated to have solely 16 hours to file observations with its Four units — a digicam, a radiometer, a magnetometer and a French-built infrared spectrometer — and add the knowledge to Hayabusa 2 sooner than its batteries died.

It turned out that the lander exceeded expectations by working for higher than an hour longer than anticipated:

Hayabusa 2 will relay the knowledge to Earth over the following couple of days.

MASCOT’s mission bought right here practically two weeks after Hayabusa 2 deployed two mini-rovers to Ryugu’s flooring for an preliminary spherical of reconnaissance. Inside the coming months, Hayabusa 2 will descend to the asteroid and blast bits of rock from the ground for assortment. It moreover has one different mini-rover to launch.

The probe is scheduled to start the return journey to Earth subsequent 12 months and drop off its samples all through a flyby in late 2020.

That’s an updated mannequin of a report first revealed at 9:33 p.m. PT Oct. 3.

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