Lander plops down on asteroid for 17-hour survey

MASCOT lander

An artist’s conception shows MASCOT on the surface of asteroid Ryugu. (JAXA Illustration)

A robotic probe the size of a shoebox set itself down on the asteroid Ryugu, more than 180 million miles from Earth, and conducted a 17-hour survey of its rocky surroundings.

The foot-wide, German-built lander is called MASCOT, which stands for Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout. It was ejected from Japan’s Hayabusa 2 probe from a height of 51 meters (167 feet) and drifted downward to Ryugu at walking speed.

“It could not have gone better,” Tra-Mi Ho, MASCOT project manager at the DLR Institute of Space Systems, said today in a status update. “From the lander’s telemetry, we were able to see that it separated from the mothercraft and made contact with the asteroid surface approximately 20 minutes later.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.

About Alan Boyle

Award-winning science writer, creator of Cosmic Log, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.
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