MASCOT Meets Its End on Asteroid Ryugu


According to JAXA, The MASCOT asteroid lander decommissioned itself after a successful mission

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA), MASCOT—a shoebox-size, hopping robot that landed on the 3,000-foot-wide asteroid Ryugu on October 2, 2018, ended its mission on October 4. Although it seems pretty quick, MASCOT operated longer than it was expected. The non-rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasted for over 17 hours, exceeding its capacity of 16 hours. On September 21, Hayabusa2 had deployed two small, solar-powered hoppers called MINERVA-II1A and MINERVA-II1B on Ryugu. Both the hoppers are active on the asteroid. Both were followed by MASCOT that was built by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in collaboration with the French space agency, CNES.

MASCOT weighted 10 kilograms and carried four instruments including a camera, a spectrometer, a magnetometer, and a radiometer. The data collected from the lander was beamed to Hayabusa2, which will transfer this data back to Earth. Some of the data has already returned and JAXA has made public a photo captured by MASCOT of Ryugu while descending toward the asteroid. The asteroid has an extremely low gravitational field, which could lead the robot to float off the surface, when its tires start turning. Therefore, the Ryugu robots were all designed to hop. To accomplish the task, MASCOT possessed a metal swing arm inside its boxy body. Hayabusa2 is scheduled to land one more hopper on the asteroid’s surface. The optional explorer called MINERVA-II2 is around the same size as the 2.4-lb. MINERVA-II1 duo.

Hayabusa2 is scheduled to explore the asteroid until 2019 and return to Earth in a capsule in December 2020. The data collected by Hayabusa2 and its team of hoppers including MOSCOT is expected to help to better understand the early phase of solar system and the role carbon-rich asteroids such as Ryugu in emergence of life on Earth. The US$ 150 million Hayabusa2 mission was launched in December 2014 and is the successor of Hayabusa spacecraft that visited asteroid Itokawa in 2005. Hayabusa returned a small sample of rock to the Earth in 2010. The article was published in Space News on October 05, 2018.



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