Two small Japanese robots landed at a distance asteroid last weekend.
The robots took small jumps, making it the first time that every device of our planet moved on the surface of an asteroid.
The two machines, called robbers, landed on the asteroid Ryugu on 21 September. The Japan Space Exploration Agency says they were brought to the surface by an unmanned spacecraft called the Hayabusa2.
Asteroids are small, rocky objects in orbit around the sun. They are sometimes described as small planets.
The Japanese spaceship arrived in Ryugu for the first time last June. He flew to 55 meters from the asteroid before he released the robbers. Hayabusa2 then rose back to a waiting position about 20 kilometers above the surface.
The next day, the Japanese space agency, known as JAXA, released a number of photos that the robbers had sent back from the landing area. One shows the dark stone of Ryugu, with a bright line of sunlight that illuminates the surface of the asteroid.
"I can not find words to express how happy I am," said JAXA project manager Yuichi Tsuda in a statement after the robots arrived.
The robbers are called MINERVA-II 1a and 1b. They are about the size of a can that can be held cookies. Their movements are powered by solar energy from the sun. The low gravity on the asteroid makes rolling difficult, so that the robbers move by making jumps up to 15 meters at a time.
They will keep moving around the surface, taking photos and collecting information about temperature. The Japanese space agency says they will continue to jump as long as their solar equipment and power remain.
A larger rover and lander will be released on the surface of Hayabusa2 in the coming months.
You may wonder why you send a spacecraft millions of miles away to land on an old piece of rock that travels through space? Scientists believe that asteroids can provide information about the earliest days of our solar system, dating back 4 to 4 billion years.
Ryugu revolves around the sun between earth and Mars and is an asteroid of the C-type – the most common type of asteroid in our solar system. Scientists think that some asteroids might contain biological dust and water. Ryugu can give researchers a window to see all the way back to the beginning of life itself.
JAXA hopes to find out where Ryugu consists of collecting material from the surface of the asteroid and bringing it home to be studied. Hyabusa2 is ready to try three short landings on Ryugu to collect stones samples. The first attempt is expected in October.
Later this week, the spacecraft will liberate another lander on the asteroid. The device is a project of German and French space organizations. Known as MASCOT, it will carry four observation devices. The spacecraft will release a larger rover, named Minerva-II-2, in 2019.
Hyabusa2 stays in Ryugu until late in the year. Then it will fly back to Earth with the asteroid monsters. JAXA expects the spacecraft to return home by 2020.
Scientists will study the samples to understand more about how planets around the sun were formed in the early days of our solar system.
Over time, these samples are compared with those the American space agency NASA hopes to get from the asteroid Bennu. NASA & # 39; s spacecraft was launched two years ago. It is expected to reach Bennu in early December.
NASA's spacecraft will then take samples of the asteroid in 2020, and three years later they will return to Earth for scientists to study.
I am Anne Ball.
Anne Ball wrote this story for VOA Learning English with information from The Associated Press. George Grow was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write us in the Comments section.
Words in this story
asteroid – n. one of the thousands of small planets circling around the sun
cookie – n. a sweet baked food that is usually small, flat and round and made from flour and sugar
biological – adj. of, related to, or obtained from living beings
sample – n. a small part of something that gives you information about the thing from which it was taken