“It is a success that almost exceeds our expectations given the characteristics of the surface of the asteroid, Ryugu, for the less rugged,” says Patrick Michel of the Observatoire de la Côte d’azur, member of the mission, Hayabusa2. The lander franco-German MASCOT landed safely at the surface of the asteroid, this Wednesday, October 3 in the morning.

Separated from its mother ship Hayabusa2 successfully for 3 h 58 (French time), he touched the soil of the asteroid after a free fall of 51 m and ultimately has very little rebound to the surface. In fact, just 20 minutes after its release, the little robot to the physiognomy of a shoe box of 30 cubic centimeters per 10 kilograms was already stabilized on the surface of Ryugu. “It is amazing, and it will therefore be very interesting to understand why,” says the astrophysicist. However, according to Aurélie Moussi, head of the project of MASCOT for the Cnes, the lander landed in the middle of the area that had been chosen for its landing.

Read also The robot MASCOT in full race against the watch on his asteroid

Only one small snag, which the mission team was made aware by receiving the first stream of measures performed by the robot, it had fallen on his head. Decision was therefore quickly taken to the back through a kind of arm internal provided for this purpose, but also to allow him to move by making leaps. Given the life expectancy of a maximum of 16 hours of the lander and of the 18 minutes necessary to communicate with the probe Hayabusa2 through which pass all the data in MASCOT, the team had no time to lose. Risky move, but executed with success ! “The relocation of MASCOT went well… These instruments are working perfectly,” said Aurélie Moussi, head of the project MASCOT for the French space agency Cnes, during a briefing organized by the German aerospace DLR.

Developed by the space agencies from germany (DLR) and French (Cnes), MASCOT is equipped with four instruments. A microscope ir (MicrOmega) developed by the Institut d’astrophysique spatiale, should allow him to carry out the analysis in mineralogy, in situ, in the soil of the Ryugu. A camera multispectral wide-field (Mascam) must provide, for its part, the geological context of the analysis pictures of the sites visited. A magnetometer (MasMag) mission is to study the magnetic properties of Ryugu, while a radiometer (Mara) is in charge of measuring the temperature of its surface and to assess the thermal inertia of the asteroid.

Read also What the heck are they going to do on these asteroids ?

His mission ? Run them all, to the place where it landed, or even in one or two other points, to analyze the physical properties and the chemical composition of Ryugu, body primitive of 880 metres in diameter assumed to be carbon-rich, in order to shed light on the formation of the solar system and the origin of life. It is a real race against the clock for the little brother of the robot Philae, which, devoid of solar panels, will extinguish for ever this evening, when his battery with an autonomy of 10 hours to 16 hours will be permanently discharged. Nothing that on the occasion of his descent to Ryugu, MASCOT took a score of photographs of the asteroid, which was unveiled Wednesday morning on his Twitter account. What to do its entry in the lineage of the heroes of space exploration.

To go deeper, read also our article : What the heck are they going to do on these asteroids ?

On the same subject, The robot MASCOT in full race against the watch on his asteroid