By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ANKARA (AA) - Japan’s Hayabusa2 space probe has successfully released a robotic explorer that will land on the surface of an asteroid, local media reported.
This is final task for the probe before its return to earth by the end of 2020, daily Mainichi reported.
“The Minerva-II2, a small rover attached to the Hayabusa2, began its descent toward the surface of the Ryugu asteroid at around 1 a.m. Japan time [1600GMT Wednesday]. Its main task will be to research the asteroid's gravity,” the daily said quoting Japan's space agency.
Hayabusa2 space probe had touched down on an asteroid in space in July this year.
It will leave the asteroid in November or December.
Hayabusa2 is tasked with gaining clues to the formation of the solar system and the origin of life.
“The rover, which was separated from the space probe at 1 kilometer above the asteroid's surface, will orbit around Ryugu's equator about eight times over five days before touching down on the surface,” the report added.
Meanwhile, the Hayabusa2 probe will stay around 8 to 10 kilometers (5 to 6 miles) above the asteroid “to take images with its cameras”.
“The rover is the last of three explorers that make up the Minerva-II robot vehicles installed on Hayabusa2. The first two rovers successfully landed on the asteroid in September last year and took images of its rocky surface,” the daily said.
Hayabusa2 was launched in December 2014 from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan and it reached Ryugu in June last year.