Prelims cum Mains Science & Tech

Japan drops new robot on asteroid

The News

  • A Japanese probe launched a new observation robot towards an asteroid as it pursues a mission to shed light on the origins of the solar system.
  • The Hayabusa2 probe launched the French-German Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT, towards the Ryugu asteroid’s surface, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
  • The robot has safely landed.


What is a space probe?

  • A probe is a spacecraft that travels through space to collect science information.
  • Probes do not have astronauts.
  • Probes send data back to Earth for scientists to study.


About Hayabusa 2 probe:

  • Hayabusa 2 is an unmanned explorer.
  • It was launched in 2014 aboard Japan’s main H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima Space Centre for its six-year mission to bring back mineral samples from the asteroid.
  • Recently, the probe released a French-German landing vehicle named Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) for surface observation.
  • Hayabusa2 is about the size of a large fridge and equipped with solar panels.
  • It is the successor to JAXA’s first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa — Japanese for falcon.
  • It is hugely significant to take data from the surface of an asteroid.
  • The Hayabusa2 is scheduled to deploy an “impactor” that will explode above the asteroid, shooting a two-kilo copper object into it to blast a small crater on the surface.
  • The probe will then hover over the artificial crater and collect samples using an extended arm.
  • If all goes well, soil samples will be returned to Earth in late 2020.


What is a rover?

  • A rover (or planetary rover) is a space exploration vehicle designed to move across the surface of a planet or other celestial body.
  • Some rovers have been designed to transport members of a human spaceflight crew; others have been partially or fully autonomous robots.
  • Rovers usually arrive at the planetary surface on a lander-style spacecraft.
  • Rovers are created to land on another celestial body, besides Earth, to find out information and to take samples.
  • They can collect dust, rocks, and even take pictures.
  • They are very useful for exploring the universe.


The Rovers in the mission

  • Firstly, the Hayabusa2 dropped a pair of MINERVA-II micro-rovers on the Ryugu asteroid.
  • 10 days later MASCOT’s was launched.
  • The rovers will take advantage of Ryugu’s low gravity to jump around on the surface, travelling as far as 15 metres while airborne and staying in the air for as long as 15 minutes to survey the asteroid’s physical features with cameras and sensors.
  • Unlike those machines, MASCOT will be largely immobile — it will “jump” just once on its mission, and it can turn on its sides.
  • And while the rovers will spend several months on the asteroid, the MASCOT has a maximum battery life of just 16 hours, and will transmit the data it collects to the Hayabusa2 before running out of juice.
  • It was the first time that moving, robotic observation device have been successfully landed on an asteroid.



  • The 10-kg box-shaped MASCOT is loaded with sensors.
  • It can take images at multiple wavelengths, investigate minerals with a microscope, gauge surface temperatures and measure magnetic fields.

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