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The First Photo from the Asteroid Japan Just Landed Rovers On


Japan just made history by landing two small rovers on the surface of an asteroid hurtling through space 174 million miles (280 million km) from Earth, and here’s the first published photo from the rovers shot from the surface of 162173 Ryugu.

The photo “was taken during a hop on the surface and you can feel this dynamic movement” in the motion blur, the Japanese space agency JAXA writes.

The asteroid measures about 0.6 miles (1km) in diameter and was discovered back in 1999. JAXA’s Hayabusa-2 spacecraft sent the two rovers to the space rock on Friday, and the rovers will be gathering photos and data as they hop across the asteroid. Due to the low gravity, the rovers spend 15 minutes in the “air” for each 15-meter (49-foot) hop.

Hayabusa-2 arrived at the asteroid in June 2018 after a 3.5-year, 1.99-billion-mile (3.2-billion-km) trip from Earth. Here’s the series of photos that were shared through the approach, dispatch, landing, and initial hops:

While the European Space Agency shot the first photos ever (as well as this mindblowing view) from the surface of a comet back in 2014, Japan’s mission is the first time humans have landed rovers on the surface of an asteroid.

The 2.2lb (1kg) rovers have both wide-angle and stereo cameras (four on one and three on the other) that will be used to document the surface. After a lengthy study of the asteroid, Hayabusa-2 will be packing its bags and heading back to Earth with samples in December 2019. You can follow along with the photos on the Hayabusa-2 website.