This photo, taken as the MINERVA hoppers were on their way to the surface of the asteroid, was taken from an altitude of just 262 feet (80 meters) above its surface. The shadow of the spacecraft, Hayabusa-2, is visible at left. JAXA
It’s happening right now. Two little robots bristling with sensors and cameras departed the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa-2 at 11:06 p.m. yesterday and have begun their descent to the surface of Ryugu, a barren, rocky asteroid 0.6 miles (1 km) across some 200 million miles (322 million km) from Earth. Named MINERVA II-1A and MINERVA II-1B, they’ll land on the asteroid and explore its surface via a unique form of propulsion — hopping.
One of the MINERVA’s will break down into two smaller rovers for a total of three (for now) bouncing around the asteroid. Rover 1A and 1B are just 7 inches wide and 2.8 inches (18×7 cm) tall. JAXA
Being small, Ryugu has a very low surface gravity. If the Minervas (stands for Micro Nano Experimental Robot Vehicle for Asteroid) tried to move using wheels or treads, the push-back would launch the probes off the surface and into space. Instead, an internal rotating motor will make each ...