Tuesday night Japanese asteroid reconnaissance probe Hayabusa-2 dispatched their second support craft – MASCOT, which stands for Mobile Asteroid Service Scout. Unlike the first MINERVA Craft this box shaped lander is capable of turning around in place to capture the LZ from multiple angles. However, it cannot navigate to other locations and is in fact immobile, meant for extended of observation in one location.
MASCOT was designed by German/French space agencies and is now capturing photos and media of ryugu from 186 million miles away. A few weeks ago MINERVA was the first craft to ever land on an asteroid body. Now MASCOT being second craft, is more equipped more extended periods of surveillance.
“The camera worked perfectly,” said Ralf Jaumann, a planetary scientist with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) that built MASCOT, in a statement. “The team’s first images of the camera are therefore safe.”
The former two MINERVA craft were smaller and more mobile – navigating the asteroid in 15 minute long thruster jumps only possible with such a small amount of gravity. MINERVA was the first lander to capture close up shots of an asteroid.
MASCOT will operate for around 16 hours due to it’s short battery so scientists will have to take advantage of the time they have. They have a unique opportunity to learn more about our solar systems early formation and, along with that, test the feasibility of asteroid mining – a market that is expected to be worth trillions, if not quintillions of dollars.
“With MASCOT, we have the unique opportunity to study the solar system’s most primordial material directly on an asteroid,” Jaumann said.
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA will launch what is called Impactor” later this month – a projectile designed to explode above the atteroid, and launch a copper plate towards the surface, creating a deep impact creator for subterranean sample extraction.
In fact part a big part of MASCOTs purpose was to prepare by finding a location for Impact.
The Hayabusa-2 mission, launched in 2014 costed JAXA a total of 260 million dollars and is expected to return in December 2020.