An artist’s conception shows the MASCOT lander sitting on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. (JAXA Illustration)
A robotic probe the size of a shoebox set itself down on the asteroid Ryugu, more than 180 million miles from Earth, and conducted a 16-hour survey of its rocky surroundings.
The foot-wide, German-built lander is called MASCOT, which stands for Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout. It was ejected from Japan’s Hayabusa 2 probe from a height of 51 meters (167 feet) and drifted downward to Ryugu at walking speed.
“It could not have gone better,” Tra-Mi Ho, MASCOT project manager at the DLR Institute of Space Systems, said today in a status update. “From the lander’s telemetry, we were able to see that it separated from the mothercraft and made contact with the asteroid surface approximately 20 minutes later.”
MASCOT took a picture of its own shadow on Ryugu’s surface as it descended:
Hello #Earth, hello @haya2kun! I promised to send you some pictures of #Ryugu so here’s a shot I took during my descent. Can you spot my shadow? #AsteroidLanding pic.twitter.com/dmcilFl5ms
— MASCOT Lander (@MASCOT2018) October 3, 2018
The lander is equipped with a swing arm to move itself around the surface. ...