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Japan’s asteroid rovers continue to send back amazing images of its alien surface

Published Dec 13th, 2018 9:02PM EST
hayabusa-2 probe
Image: JAXA

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It’s been a couple of months since the Japanese space agency (JAXA) deployed robots to the surface of the asteroid known as Ryugu. The Hayabusa-2 “mothership” sent the bots down to examine the space rock’s surface and send back readings to Earth, and we got to see the images shortly after they arrived.

Now, as JAXA prepares for the most daring maneuver of the entire mission — a touchdown that will allow Hayabusa-2 to snag a sample of the rock’s surface before heading back to Earth — the space agency is showing off more of the awesome images snapped by its rovers.

The images were captured by the small “hopping” rovers that JAXA deemed suitable for exploration of the asteroid. The gravity on the rock’s surface would have been too low to allow for wheeled rovers, so JAXA decided on small rovers that actually hop from one spot to another, snapping images along the way. The result is a whole bunch of photos of a very, very rocky landscape.

JAXA was actually shocked at how rocky the asteroid’s surface turned out to be, and the mission team has been forced to delay the touchdown maneuver already because they need additional time to decide where to land.

Picking a safe landing spot is vital to the ultimate goal of allowing the Hayabusa-2 probe to lift back up off the surface and eventually come back to Earth. Any damage to the spacecraft during its landing would put it in serious jeopardy.