It may take a ninjutsu martial artist to fight and float at the same time. Gravity is light on asteroid Ryugu. So, if visiting rovers tried to roll along the surface, as Curiosity did on Mars, the momentum would send them quickly aloft. Solution? Hops. Touchdowns will allow two 7 inch rovers to collect data before elevating into another hop. The Minerva Rovers descend from Hayabusa2, Japan’s spacecraft that embarked upon the mission on 3 December 2014 from Tanegashima Space Center. It took two tries: but Hayabusa2 scored a touchdown today.
While NASA may have been the first to touch down spacecraft, and human footprints, upon the lunar surface, in the Apollo mission, much space exploration has followed, including the promising field of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, thought to contain valuable minerals worth quadrillions. Japan’s Hyabusa1 was the first spacecraft to achieve a roundtrip to an asteroid, bring a bit of asteroid dust from Itokawa to earth in a sealed capsule in 2010. Meanwhile, NASA is still in the running. Osiris-Rex will arrive at asteroid Bennu on New Year’s Eve 2018. Purpose? Information on the origins of the solar system, perhaps even the building blocks of life.
Corum, Jonathan. “Hayabusa2 Prepares to Drop Rovers on Asteroid Ryugu.” 19 September 2018. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/06/25/science/hayabusa-ryugu-photos.html.
Desjardins, Jeff. “There’s big money to be made in asteroid mining.” 5 November 2016. Business Insider.https://www.businessinsider.com/the-value-of-asteroid-mining-2016-11.
JAXA. For a view of the landing, see: http://www.hayabusa2.jaxa.jp/en/galleries/onc/nav20180920/
Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License