MASCOT Lander On Its Way Down to Ryugu – UPDATE

MASCOT Lander On Its Way Down to Ryugu – UPDATE

The German/French MASCOT lander is on its way down to the surface of the asteroid Ryugu.  Separation of MASCOT from Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft took place at an altitude of about 51 meters above the surface. MASCOT will free fall the rest of the way down and is expected to bounce a few times before settling on a specific spot.

Hayabusa2 is an asteroid sample return mission launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in 2014.  It is carrying several landers.  It arrived at Ryugu in June 2018 after a nearly four-year journey and is orbiting the asteroid.  Two Japanese-built landers, MINERVA II1 A and B, separated from Hayabusa2 and touched down on Ryugu on September 22 and sent back images and other data about the surface. Each is just 1.1 kilograms.

MASCOT is much larger by comparison, but still quite small — 30 x 30 x 20 centimeters with a mass of 9.6 kilograms.  Like the MINERVA landers, it can “hop” across the surface, which must be done very carefully since Ryugu has very little gravity.

MASCOT’s battery will last for only 16 hours, but it is expected to collect imagery and other data about the surface of Ryugu.  It carries a camera, spectrometer, radiometer, and magnetometer.

Separation of MASCOT from Hayabusa2 was announced via the Twitter feeds associated with the spacecraft.

Stephen Clark of reported from MASCOT’s control center in Cologne, Germany at about 11:30 pm ET that it will take several hours before information from MASCOT post-separation gets back to Earth and is released.  Check back here for updates.

UPDATE: The German space agency, DLR, issued a press release once MASCOT’s successful landing was confirmed.   It landed on Ryugu about 20 minutes after it was released.  DLR led development and testing of MASCOT and the lander is controlled from DLR’s operations center in Cologne.

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