On Sunday, the agency managed to land two tiny robots, Rover-1A and 1B, on the surface of an asteroid called Ryugu. And they have proof of their achievement.
The Japanese have documented the approach, separation of the two robots from the carrier spacecraft, and their landing and have posted the photos online.
The first pic, taken by Rover-1B, shows the surface of Ryugu just after separation. The blurry spec on the right has been identified by the Japanese as a reflection of the sunlight.
The second one was taken by 1A right on the surface of the asteroid, at a moment when the rover was hopping to move from its position.
Both rovers sent to Ryugu are part of the Hayabusa2 mission, aimed at collecting and returning asteroid samples back to Earth. Initially, the two rovers were expected to reach the surface of the asteroid in June.
Now that they managed to land, they will spend more than a year hopping around on the asteroid, doing science.
The two rovers are shaped like cylinders with a diameter of 18 cm and with a height of 7 cm. Their hoping ability allows them to change their position on the surface of the asteroid and survey other locations.
Each is equipped with two cameras and several thermometers which will be used to document the research.
Following the landing of these two rovers, two more will follow. A bigger robot called MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) will be deployed next month, followed by a third hopping-machine next year.
Photo taken by Rover-1B on Sept 21 at ~13:07 JST. It was captured just after separation from the spacecraft. Ryugu's surface is in the lower right. The misty top left region is due to the reflection of sunlight. 1B seems to rotate slowly after separation, minimising image blur. pic.twitter.com/P71gsC9VNI— [email protected] (@haya2e_jaxa) 22 septembrie 2018