Photos from Japanese space rovers show asteroid is … rocky

A Japanese space robot has filmed vision from the surface of an asteroid, beaming a time-lapse video of a "day" on the space rock back to earth. They began exploring the surface, snapping pictures and taking videos, giving us a long-awaited ground-level view of an asteroid.

This computer graphic image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows two drum-shaped and solar-powered Minerva-II-1 rovers on an asteroid.

Part of a collection of media released by the agency, the video shows the rocky surface of the asteroid and the sun moving across the sky, as seen from the asteroid.

162173 Ryugu is one of many asteroids which occupy the orbital space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Twitter user Transferrins created this incredible stop-motion animation of the rover's landing on the asteroid, which shows just how nail-biting that journey was.

The Hayabusa 2 mission was launched in December 2014 and took three-and-a-half years to arrive at Ryugu, 280 million km from Earth. Weak gravity on the asteroid makes it hard for the rovers to roll on the surface.

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That hop propels the rovers into the air for up to 15 minutes and allows the rover to move up to nearly 50 feet horizontally along the asteroid's surface.

Speaking after the initial rover landings, Yuichi Tsuda, project manager for the Hayabusa2 mission, said: "I can not find words to express how happy I am that we were able to realise mobile exploration on the surface of an asteroid".

"It is incredible to be a human living at this moment in the history of space exploration".

And as soon as the end of October, they could be joined by Hayabusa2 itself, which will make its first attempt at shooting a projectile into the asteroid and collecting samples to bring back to Earth.

The rovers were stored within a container called MINERVA-II1.

As they image the asteroid, the probes will also use finely tuned sensors to record surface temperatures at each destination.

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