Japan has successfully landed two small robotic rovers on the asteroid Ryugu.
The two rovers together are called MINERVA-II1.
Measuring 18 centimeters by 7 cm and weighing roughly 1 kilogram, the two cylinder-shaped explorers will travel along the asteroid's rocky surface by using motors to hop in the low gravity.
Japan's space probe on Friday released a pair of exploring rovers toward an egg-shaped asteroid to collect mineral samples that may shed light on the origin of the solar system.
Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, shared photos taken by its MINERVA-II1A and MINERVA-II1B from the surface of the asteroid Ryugu on Saturday. "I am proud that Hayabusa 2 was able to contribute to the creation of this technology for a new method of space exploration by surface movement on small bodies", said Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa 2 Project Manager. That was because they could float off into space if they landed hard due to the impact of the landing and the asteroid's weak gravitational pull.
The success marked the first time that rovers which can maneuver around the surface have been successfully placed on an asteroid, JAXA said.
Since landing, the rovers have sent back photos and data.
A series of specially designed cameras - four on the first rover and three on the second - will take stereo images of the asteroid's surface.
Next month, Hayabusa2 will deploy an "impactor" that will explode above the asteroid, shooting a 2-kg (4-lb.) copper object into the surface to blast a crater a few meters in diameter. Once the probe completes taking samples from the asteroid, it will head back to Earth in late 2020.
The MINERVA-II1B rover captured this view of asteroid Ryugu on September 21, 2018 shortly after separating from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hayabusa2 spacecraft.