Japanese mini-rovers send back their first images as they hop around an asteroid

Two mini-rovers have sent their first pictures back from the surface of the asteroid Ryugu, a day after they were dropped off by Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft.

The pictures are blurry because they were taken while the rovers were falling and hopping around the half-mile-wide asteroid, more than 180 million miles from Earth.

The rovers are built to spring up from the surface repeatedly and hop as far as 50 feet at a time. A follow-up image from Rover-1A showed the asteroid’s sun-illuminated surface from above during a hop. Yoshimitsu said that picture allowed him to “confirm the effectiveness of this movement mechanism on the small celestial body and see the result of many years of research.”

Hayabusa 2 project team spokesman Takashi Kubota seconded Yoshimitsu’s sentiment, saying that seeing the pictures taken in mid-hop “allowed me to relax as a dream of many years came true.”

“I felt awed by what we had achieved in Japan,” Kubota said. “This is just a real charm of deep space exploration.”

The pictures are reminiscent of the attention-grabbing views sent back from the surface of a comet by a European-built lander during the Rosetta mission.

When Makoto Yoshikawa looked at the rover pictures, he saw redemption. Yoshikawa served as project scientist for the original Hayabusa mission to Itokawa, and is now the project mission manager for Hayabusa 2’s rendezvous with Ryugu.

“I was so moved to see these small rovers successfully explore an asteroid surface, because we could not achieve this at the time of Hayabusa, 13 years ago,” he said.

The Hayabusa 2 mission team is continuing to acquire data for analysis, and further pictures are likely to be distributed first via the mission’s Twitter account.

A larger MASCOT rover, contributed by the German and French space agencies, is due to be dropped toward the surface next month. Next year, Hayabusa 2 will dispatch yet another mini-rover with its MINERVA-II-2 deployable carrier. The main spacecraft will also descend to the asteroid’s surface to collect samples for return to Earth in late 2020.

As fuzzy as they are, the photos represent a huge victory for the $260 million Hayabusa 2 mission, which was launched nearly four years ago to get an unprecedented look at the surface of an asteroid.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency first tried to put a rover on the surface of an asteroid more than a decade ago, during a mission to a space rock called Itokawa. That part of the mission fizzled, however, when the MINERVA rover carrier missed the mark and sailed off into interplanetary space. Hayabusa 2, in contrast, dropped its MINERVA-II-1 carrier right on target. The carrier deployed two 7-inch-wide, disk-shaped rovers that touched down on Ryugu’s rock-strewn terrain.

It took a while to get the pictures back to Earth because they had to be uploaded from the rovers to the mothership — and then relayed back to Earth for processing.

The first snapshot, taken during Rover-1A’s descent, shows Hayabusa 2 as a bright smudge in the black sky above and the surface of Ryugu as a bright smear below. Hayabusa’s solar panels, which account for most of the spacecraft’s 18-foot width, can be made out as fuzzy blue rectangles.

“Although I was disappointed with the blurred image that first came from the rover, it was good to be able to capture this shot as it was recorded by the rover, as the Hayabusa2 spacecraft is shown,” JAXA’s Tetsuo Yoshimitsu, a team leader for MINERVA-II-1, said today in a statement.

Original article please finde here.



Kick Asteroid Campaign

Kick Asteroid: Planetary Defenders, Earth Needs You!

The Planetary Society is excited to partner with space artist and designer, Thomas Romer, and backers around the world to create Kick Asteroid—a colorful graphic poster that will illustrate the effect of past catastrophic impacts, and methods to deflect future asteroid threats. Compelling and scientifically accurate art will be created for posters and other “merch” that backers can use in their everyday lives to spread the word about planetary defense.

Kick Asteroid preliminary poster design


Join the movement and be a Planetary Defender!

There’s no time to spare… ! And with your help, the Society is gearing up to do its part. There are many things we can be doing to help protect against asteroid threats and we want to give you awesome artwork that helps you spread the word.

The most important step right now is simple: be aware and share. The more people who know about the asteroid threat the better. Educating the public will, in turn, guide the world leaders who will then be inspired to fund the research we need now and the asteroid deflection missions when the time comes.

By backing this project, you can engage with others about asteroid defense. You will be doing your part to protect the people of Earth from a devastating impact.

Please read more and share this link.


Victor Bar presenting NEOShield in Israel in line with Asteroid Day

This year in Israel was the 4th Asteroid Day in a row and our agent Victor Bar educate the public in two events about our NEOShield-2 project.

Please find some impressions of his work in his summary of the events.

A month before Asteroid Day I published a quiz about Asteroids in General and the NEOShield-2 project. Finally, 35 people participated in the quiz and tried to do their best to answer the selected questions. Some of the participants managed to score very high and so they received prizes, which were provided by NEOShield-2 Team in advance.

Furthermore, I lectured 80 people during Asteroid Day at two Events – took place in Netanja and Givaataim. The speech was about raising awareness to Asteroids, the interesting exploration of OSIRIS-Rex and Hayabusa-2 and of course NEOShield-2 Project as our best hope to mitigate the threat.

Once more we managed to stay safe from asteroids, but what will happen when our luck runs out?






Huge thanks to Victor for his effort as agent for NEOShield!

Tiny Asteroid Discovered Saturday Disintegrates Hours Later Over Southern Africa

Asteroid 2018 LA
These are the discovery observations of asteroid 2018 LA from the Catalina Sky Survey, taken June 2, 2018. About eight hours after these images were taken, the asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere (about 9:44 a.m. PDT, 12:44 p.m. EDT, 16:44 UTC, 6:44 p.m. local Botswana time), and disintegrated in the upper atmosphere near Botswana, Africa.Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CSS-Univ. of Arizona

Full image and caption

A boulder-sized asteroid designated 2018 LA was discovered Saturday morning, June 2, and was determined to be on a collision course with Earth, with impact just hours away. Because it was very faint, the asteroid was estimated to be only about 6 feet (2 meters) across, which is small enough that it was expected to safely disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere. Saturday’s asteroid was first discovered by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey, located near Tucson and operated by the University of Arizona.

The Asteroid is located here.

Although there was not enough tracking data to make precise predictions ahead of time, a swath of possible locations was calculated stretching from Southern Africa, across the Indian Ocean, and onto New Guinea. Reports of a bright fireball above Botswana, Africa, early Saturday evening match up with the predicted trajectory for the asteroid. The asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere at the high speed of 10 miles per second (38,000 mph, or 17 kilometers per second) at about 16:44 UTC (9:44 a.m. PDT, 12:44 p.m. EDT,6:44 p.m. local Botswana time) and disintegrated several miles above the surface, creating a bright fireball that lit up the evening sky. The event was witnessed by a number of observers and was caught on webcam video.


When it was first detected, the asteroid was nearly as far away as the Moon’s orbit, although that was not initially known. The asteroid appeared as a streak in the series of time-exposure images taken by the Catalina telescope . As is the case for all asteroid-hunting projects, the data were quickly sent to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which calculated a preliminary trajectory indicating the possibility of an Earth impact. The data were in turn sent to the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where the automated Scout system also found a high probability that the asteroid was on an impact trajectory. Automated alerts were sent out to the community of asteroid observers to obtain further observations, and to the Planetary Defense Coordination Office at NASA Headquarters in Washington. However, since the asteroid was determined to be so small and therefore harmless, no further impact alerts were issued by NASA.

“This was a much smaller object than we are tasked to detect and warn about,” said Lindley Johnson, Planetary Defense Officer at NASA Headquarters. “However, this real-world event allows us to exercise our capabilities and gives some confidence our impact prediction models are adequate to respond to the potential impact of a larger object.”

The ATLAS asteroid survey obtained two additional observations hours before impact, which were used by Scout to confirm the impact would occur, and narrowed down the predicted location to southern Africa. Infrasound data collected just after the impact clearly detected the event from one of the listening stations deployed as part of the International Monitoring System of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. The signal is consistent with an atmospheric impact over Botswana.

“The discovery of asteroid 2018 LA is only the third time that an asteroid has been discovered to be on an impact trajectory, said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at JPL. “It is also only the second time that the high probability of an impact was predicted well ahead of the event itself.”

The first event of this kind was the impact of asteroid 2008 TC3, which lit up the predawn sky above Northern Sudan on October 7, 2008. That was a slightly larger asteroid (about 13 feet, or 4 meters in size), and it was discovered a full 19 hours before impact, allowing for a large number of follow-up observations and a very precise trajectory to be calculated. The second predicted impact event was for asteroid 2014 AA, which was discovered only a few hours before impact on Jan. 1, 2014, in the Atlantic Ocean, leaving too little time for follow-up observations. The Catalina Sky Survey has been responsible for discovering all three of these small asteroids on impact trajectories, and all on the watch of the same observer, Richard Kowalski.

NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office is responsible for finding, tracking and characterizing potentially hazardous asteroids and comets coming near Earth, issuing warnings about possible impacts, and assisting coordination of U.S. government response planning, should there be an actual impact threat. JPL hosts the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program, an element of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office within the agency’s Science Mission Directorate.

Original article please find here.