And if we have a 10 kg box, have we learned more about our origins? This is the challenge of the Hayabusa2 mission, which drops the MASCOT lander (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) on the asteroid Ryugu, 320 million kilometers from the earth, on the night of Tuesday 2 October 3 October.
After almost four years of traveling, the Japanese spacecraft will separate itself from the landing gear developed by German space agencies (DLR) and French (CNES) and is equipped with four scientific instruments. The goal is to learn more about celestial bodies such as asteroids and comets, testify to the formation of the solar system.
MASCOT is a little brother of Philae
This mission reminds you of someone else? Normally, MASCOT is a little brother of Philae, the lander of the European Space Agency, first goal to land on a comet in 2014.
In Toulouse, CNES (National Center for Space Studies), it is in the CAFET room (comet and asteroid French expertise team) that everything is preparing. The teams participated in the development and construction of the small robot and in the choice of landing sites. This weekend they followed the MASCOT re-ignition operations to ensure that his "health check" was good. "It is a super mission, the Japanese are prepared to take risks," says Aurélie Moussi, project manager Hayabusa2 MASCOT at CNES.
A free fall of 10 minutes
"Today, at a height of 20 kilometers, the probe has to descend 60 meters above the asteroid and lower the landing gear for a free fall of 10 minutes It is like throwing a dice, but we do not know how long and how often it will hit the ground, "says the engineer, a little worried after the images of the two rover MINERVA have been lowered there. has ten days at Ryugu.
"We see a lot of stones, we expected a more regular surface, MASCOT should not get stuck in the shadow, it would have an impact on measurements and communication with the probe," says Aurélie Moussi. After installation, MASCOT will benefit from a maximum of 15 hours of energy to activate its instruments. "He is very autonomous, he will decide how he is posed and if his position is not the right one, he will decide to turn alone." It is also expected that the small robot will make an additional recovery during his brief mission to To collect a second set of analyzes.
To follow the event in Toulouse
The separation between the Hayabusa2 probe and the MASCOT landing gear is scheduled at 03.58 Wednesday morning in French time. The contact with the ground will take place at the earliest two minutes after separation and at the latest 12 minutes thereafter. The end of rebounds is estimated 46 minutes later. MASCOT has a programmed lifespan between 12 o'clock and 15 o'clock. In Toulouse, visitors to the Cité de l & # 39; Espace can follow the event through the comments of astrophysicist Francis Rocard and CNES teams, all day from 10 am. Access with the entrance ticket to the city.