We’ve seen plenty of photos taken from the surface of places other than Earth. There’s the Moon of course, a huge archive of images snapped from the surface of Mars, and even photos of Venus captured from the surface, but never has a spacecraft delivered a snapshot from the surface of an asteroid.
Now, following the successful deployment of a pair of tiny rovers from Japan’s Hayabusa-2 spacecraft, the first color images from an asteroid’s surface have been send back to Earth, and boy are they creepy. Japanese space agency JAXA released the new images with a whole lot of excitement.
When the rovers were released, JAXA engineers were forced to wait and wonder if they made it to the surface in one piece. Once they landed, the rovers began sending back information that included an image that was captured during its descent:
The rovers from the Hayabusa-2 orbiter don’t have wheels, and they have to actually jump to get around. These hops, which can reach nearly 50 feet into the sky above the asteroid, are a great opportunity for the robots to snap images like the following.
Aside from looking like an action shot from a deep-space horror movie, the image has plenty of details that are worth appreciating. The dusty, rocky surface of the asteroid is in full view, as is a distorted blob of light that is actually the distant Sun. It’s an incredibly cool image, but it’s just the first of what JAXA hopes will be lots of snapshots of asteroid, called Ryugu.
While just the first two rovers have been deployed to the space rock’s surface, the Hayabusa-2 orbiter still has a pair of rovers on board that it will deploy at a later date. A sensor-packed cube will also be delivered to the surface and eventually the spacecraft itself will land on the asteroid to snag a sample of material which it will then return back to Earth.