Japan’s Hayabusa-2 Mission Captures First-Ever Video Shot From An Asteroid’s Surface

After chasing asteroid Ryugu for 3.5 years, the Hayabusa-2 mission beamed back stunning photos and video from the surface of the 3,000-foot space rock.

Asteroid Ryugu footage
JAXA

After chasing asteroid Ryugu for 3.5 years, the Hayabusa-2 mission beamed back stunning photos and video from the surface of the 3,000-foot space rock.

After its historic landing on asteroid Ryugu last week, the Hayabusa-2 mission has scored another major breakthrough in the form of the first-ever video taken from the surface of an asteroid traveling through space.

Captured on September 22 by one of the two tiny MINERVA-II1 rovers deployed on the 3,000-foot space rock the day before, the incredible footage is made up of 15 frames and shows the sun passing over Ryugu as seen from the asteroid’s surface.

The spectacular video was released yesterday by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as part of its second report on the exciting activities of the pioneering Hayabusa-2 mission.

“We end this report with a video taken by one of the rovers that shows the sun moving across the sky as seen from the surface of Ryugu,” JAXA officials wrote in their report.

Shot by the MINERVA-II1B rover over the course of one hour and 14 minutes, the amazing footage was taken between 9.34 p.m. and 10.48 p.m. EDT (10.34 a.m. to 11.48 a.m. JST on September 23) and offers a glimpse of what it looks like to stand on the surface of a moving asteroid and look up at the sun overhead.

“Please take a moment to enjoy ‘standing’ on this new world,” JAXA noted in the video release.

Aside from the stunning video, the MINERVA-II1B rover also captured a few mesmerizing photos of asteroid Ryugu, taken about an hour before as the wheeless robot hopped across the surface of the space rock.

The image below was snapped right before the hopping rover performed one of its giant leaps across Ryugu’s rocky terrain. The photo is dated September 22 at 8:46 p.m. EDT.

MINERVA-II1B photo of asteroid Ryugu
  JAXA

The next snapshot reveals a close-up view of Ryugu taken at 9:10 p.m. EDT, immediately after landing back on the asteroid’s surface. According to Space, it takes the hopping rovers up to 15 minutes to touch down on the asteroid given Ryugu’s weak gravity.

MINERVA-II1B photo of asteroid Ryugu
  JAXA

Meanwhile, the rover’s sibling, dubbed MINERVA-II1A, snapped its own impressive photos of the asteroid, including a close-up of a football-shaped rock formation on the surface of Ryugu.

MINERVA-II1A photo of asteroid Ryugu
  JAXA

In another snapshot, the rover managed to capture its own shadow between hops, revealing its antenna and the pin used by these robots to increase friction while hopping, protect their solar cells during landing, and measure Ryugu’s surface temperature with a built-in thermometer, explained JAXA.

MINERVA-II1A photo of asteroid Ryugu
  JAXA

As the Inquisitr previously reported, the Hayabusa-2 mission successfully landed two out of its three MINERVA-II rovers on asteroid Ryugu on September 21 and plans to deploy its MASCOT lander next week.

While the rovers landed in Ryugu’s northern hemisphere and have already sent back unique photos of the 3,000-foot asteroid, as recently reported by the Inquisitr, the French-German MASCOT lander is scheduled to touch down in the space rock’s southern hemisphere on October 3.

The Hayabusa-2 spacecraft itself is slated to descend to Ryugu’s surface in late October and perform three touch-and-go landings to snag rock samples from the diamond-shaped asteroid, the Inquisitr reported last month. The last of the MINERVA-II rovers, known as MINERVA-II2, will join the party in 2019.

The end goal of this remarkable mission is to recover and return samples from the ancient space rock, which orbits the sun between Earth and Mars and is believed to date back to the early days of our solar system. Per a previous Inquisitr report, Ryugu, which is a carbon-rich or C-type asteroid, is estimated to contain key ingredients that make up the building blocks of life and could help researchers investigate the origins of life on Earth.

If successful, the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft could become the world’s first mission to retrieve samples from a C-type asteroid, the Inquisitr noted in a previous report. The Japanese mission will spend all of next year studying asteroid Ryugu and will head back to Earth toward the end of 2019. Launched in 2014, the spacecraft is expected to complete its journey in December 2020, when Hayabusa-2 will deliver its precious payload back to our home planet.