Twin Japanese robotic rovers land on asteroid Ryugu

Today, Japan made history by landing two rovers onto the surface of an asteroid. The two rovers (named Rover-1A and 1B) fell from their mothership, Hayabusa2, less than 100 meters above diamond-shaped asteroid Ryugu. Now they are hopping across the rocky landscape in an unprecedented feat of exploration. This picture was taken by Rover-1A in mid-hop:

Hopping is necessary because the asteroid’s gravity is too weak for simple rolling.  Instead of wheels, the rovers have rotating motors inside that allow them to shift their momentum and, thus, make little jumps across the asteroid’s rugged surface. Mission controllers are taking great care that the rovers, which measure 18 cm by 7 cm and weigh only 1 kg, do not fly into space.

As historic as this achievement is, it is only the beginning: The two rovers are on a reconnaissance mission for two more robots slated to land later this year.  In October, Hayabusa2 will release MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout), a larger lander made by the German Aerospace Center. MASCOT will be followed, in turn, by another Japanese robot.

Above: Hayabasa2 photographs its own shadow on the asteroid. Credit: JAXA

Exploring Ryugu is important. Classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid, this 900-meter wide space rock can theoretically come closer to our planet than the Moon. This makes it a potential target for asteroid mining. Hayabasa2 will discover what valuable metals may be waiting there. Ryugu is also a very primitive body, possibly containing a chemical history of the formation of our solar system billions of years ago.

Launched in December 2014, Hayabusa2 reached asteroid Ryuga in June of this year. It is scheduled to orbit the asteroid for about a year and a half before returning to Earth in late 2020, carrying samples of Ryugu for analysis by researchers

via NASA

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Gordon Dressler
September 22, 2018 2:02 pm

Mega kudos to JAXA (aka AXA) and the nation of Japan for accomplishing this incredible feat. This is pure science when it is at its best!

Jan E Christoffersen
Reply to  Gordon Dressler
September 22, 2018 4:50 pm


Also an amazing feat of precise engineering.

Reply to  Jan E Christoffersen
September 23, 2018 1:33 pm

Rocket science is hard, but rocket engineering is even harder.
Anyone with mathematical competence can calculate an orbital trajectory, but its a completely different matter to invent and create a system of machines that can accomplish that feat.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
September 24, 2018 10:30 am

Where an assumption that their model works is not good enough….

Tom Halla
September 22, 2018 2:04 pm

Working up a practical asteroid mining system would be interesting. As one already has the materiel above low earth orbit, using the material for construction would save quite a lot, even if the most valuable material found is iron.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Tom Halla
September 22, 2018 3:25 pm

16 Psyche will be a really cool asteroid to visit.
Launch: 2022:
Arrival 2026.
“Psyche would be a valuable object for study because it is the only metallic core-like body discovered so far.”
16 Pysche – estimated size and mass: 279 × 232 × 189 km and 27,000 trillion metric tonnes.
Gravity on surface averages 0.03 g. (3% Earth)

The mission was approved by NASA on January 4, 2017 and was originally targeted to launch in October 2023, arriving at the asteroid in 2030, following an Earth gravity assist spacecraft maneuver in 2024 and a Mars flyby in 2025.[28] In May 2017 the launch date was moved up to target a more efficient trajectory, launching in 2022 and arriving in 2026 with a Mars gravity assist in 2023.

John Tillman
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 22, 2018 4:51 pm


Psyche’s iron-nickel composition suggests it could be the exposed metallic core or a fragment of a metallic core from a larger differentiated parent body (possible protoplanet) some 500 kilometers in diameter.

If so, that’s over half the diameter of dwarf planet Ceres.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  John Tillman
September 22, 2018 8:37 pm

I want to hold a big magnet to the Psyche and see if it pulls me to it.

Imagine, after you wipe away a fine 20 centimeter-thick, 4 Gy-old dust layer, that you have trillions of tonnes of almost pure iron, nickel, cobalt, and some platinum and iridium shaped like a peanut.
All waiting for the orbiting smelter. Who needs aluminum (or ‘aluminium’ as our UK friends call it)?

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 23, 2018 6:59 am

or ‘aluminium’ as our UK friends call it

Or ‘glassier’ for glacier.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 23, 2018 8:08 am

Land it on the moon first!

John Tillman
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 23, 2018 7:48 pm


When and if we ever get around to engineering the asteroid belt, it might pay off to move Psyche closer to Ceres or Vesta, if the largest asteroids are going to be our new homes. Or hollow out Psyche and turn it into a giant spaceship with a mobile colony inside, living off the resources of the solar system.

John Tillman
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 23, 2018 7:59 pm

Which is the better sci-fi story, to engineer a low-speed collision of Psyche with Ceres, so that the dwarf planet would boast a magic metallic mountain, or turning Psyche into a spacecraft whose crew and passengers would be protected from lethal radiation?

John Tillman
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 23, 2018 8:08 pm

Artist’s impression of Psyche (ASU):

comment image

John Tillman
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 23, 2018 8:09 pm

Link doesn’t work. Sorry. Please try this:

comment image

Reply to  John Tillman
September 23, 2018 1:44 pm

I simple energized wire coil hoop would be all that is needed to measure the magnetic field effect change and determine the potential alloy construction.
Iron and nickle are useful in space and aluminum even more so, but most important of all will be water. Water is fuel. The highest efficiency engines (save electropropusive drive) use LOX/LH2 (liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen). We’ll use the metals to make engines and ships, but we need the water for life support and propulsion.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
September 24, 2018 7:43 am

Indeed, rather than try to move those big lumps of rock around, land on them. Set up giant solar reflectors focused on crucibles for refining the ores. In zero G, metals can be blow moulded like styrofoam, but ultra strong. Psyche alone could produce thousands of space freighters, passenger liners, orbiting colonies, factories, etc. To get the metals back to earth, blow mould giant reentry body gliders, load them up and send them back to earth.

Like you so appropriately point out, the science is easy. The engineering – we’ll see…

September 22, 2018 2:27 pm

And the BBC’s first question of the Japanese team will be, “why are you wearing an inappropriate shirt“?

Bemused Bill
Reply to  SuffolkBoy
September 22, 2018 2:49 pm

I wish people would stop apologizing to these fascist wanna-be-the-boss-of-you misandrist freaks. They represent less than 10% of the looniest of the loony and haven’t a clue. No imagination, no humour, zero sex appeal, personality and brainless…meet them head on.
comment image?itok=JawUiPFA

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Bemused Bill
September 23, 2018 8:15 am

Bemused, I have a friendly phrase I use for rare occasions like this. “Do you find people telling you to @#$% off a lot or not so much?

September 22, 2018 2:31 pm

Real science. +++100

michael hart
September 22, 2018 2:41 pm

Schweet. Especially as it is coming back to Earth. Well done Japan.

Steve Taylor
September 22, 2018 2:50 pm

Surface gravity 1/80000 of 1g. So they actually weigh a very, very tiny fraction of their earth weight. Its amazing the landers dont jump right off.

John Tillman
Reply to  Steve Taylor
September 22, 2018 4:02 pm


I imagine that the designers and engineers made sure that their hops didn’t achieve the “How low can you go?” escape velocity.

Joel O'Bryan
September 22, 2018 3:05 pm

Asteroids that size have come out of the asteroid belt after orbit changing collisions by larger bodies. These bodies make up many of the carbonaceous chondrite meteroties collected on earth’s surface after a fiery descent through the atmosphere.

Many of these asteroids, while still floating around in space with their own micro-gravity, very likely have accreted dust over hundreds of millions to billions of years. Thus they are likely very much like a powered sugar coated donut hole. They will have some variable amount of powder from their surface when disturbed.
comment image

How thick is this powder surface, and how stable or consolidated is it? That would depend on how long it has been since the fragmenting collision that formed it, the region of space it has orbitted, and how fast it is rotating. A longer time and lower rotation rate (low centrifugal force) would allow more accretion. A spinning/tumbling asteroid that negates its surface gravity may have little to no easily loosened material on its surface. But then landing on a tumbling asteroid would be next to impossible.

On a very slow rotating asteroid, like the ones here that the Japanese have chosen, the accreted dust layer maybe a centimeters to a few meters. The moon is some guide here. The Apollo astronauts kicked up fine layers of dust some centimeters thick in places.
comment image

But the moon is not a perfect analogue because the moon’s much higher gravity than any asteroid, the Earth’s gravity sweeps our orbit area cleaner than a further out, so our more sunward position means there’s likely much less space dust here than between Mars and the asteroid belt.

In any case, a surface exploration by a 1 Kg hopper may not really tell us much about what is immediately below the surface crust made of dust. Radar, and/or direct drilling, or an impact removal/blasting could help tell us.

I really liked the 2005 Tempel comet Deep Impact mission.
That was cool.
comment image?itok=l7j1dPkT

P.S. I like blowing stuff up.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 23, 2018 11:10 pm

“P.S. I like blowing stuff up.”

That’s what sent a lot of us into engineering.

Stephen Brown
September 22, 2018 3:15 pm

Just what is involved in working out how to aim a rocket bearing two dinky little ‘toys’ at an asteroid FOUR years away that is only 900 meters wide, to get within 100 meters and to land the two ‘toys’ safely on the surface of that rapidly moving target? It’s an achievement which is truly mind-boggling!

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Stephen Brown
September 22, 2018 6:57 pm

We can be highly confident that no government climate scientist was involved in those calculations.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
September 22, 2018 7:32 pm

… and we can hope that no environmental assessments will put a stop to mining the asteroid.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
September 23, 2018 8:29 am

Just like no engineers were disturbed in the modelling of climate sciences geoengineering fantasies.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
September 23, 2018 2:05 pm

Actually, while climatologist don’t calculate the orbital trajectories they are very important in determining launch window availability. We still need to get through our atmosphere first. 🙂

As for precision, missions allow for several mid-course correction burns to adjust for imperfections in operation. Its actual trajectory is compared to its desired path and minor “nudges” are made to correct the path.

Michael S. Kelly LS, BSA Ret.
Reply to  Stephen Brown
September 22, 2018 9:17 pm

Well, it starts this way. A rocket leaves Japan at 04:22 UTC at 11.8 km/sec…

Chris Wright
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly LS, BSA Ret.
September 23, 2018 2:52 am

It’s often said that Japanese trains are so punctual you can set your watch by them.
It’s literally true. During one of my two visits to Japan – which I enjoyed very much – I did set my watch by the train.

Reply to  Chris Wright
September 23, 2018 11:40 am

That’s funny. Train times in the UK set the absolute standard for a stochastic data set.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Cephus0
September 23, 2018 5:51 pm

At one time you could set your time by train. Then, the whole network was nationalised.

Reply to  Cephus0
September 23, 2018 9:33 pm

Except for the 3:17 to Cleethorpes. 🙂

Thomas Homer
Reply to  Stephen Brown
September 23, 2018 3:08 am

Stephen Brown: “Just what is involved in working out how to aim a rocket …”

Engineers applied the Laws and formulae derived under the Theory of Gravity. These Laws and formulae were derived, developed and confirmed with precise measurements.

A theory that has no defined quantification nor method of measurement offers no way to derive, develop or confirm any Laws or formulae. This type of theory offers no science to apply.

Climate Science has no Laws nor formulae.

Reply to  Stephen Brown
September 26, 2018 9:42 pm

Mid-course (and near-final course) corrections have been used in all lunar and interplanetary travel since the early 60s, beginning with Mariner 2 in 1962, allowing high accuracy targeting, limited mostly by knowledge of where the target is (e.g. the recent Pluto fly-by).

FYI, Mariner 1 was destroyed during the launch phase, but would have been capable of mid-course maneuver. The earlier Soviet Luna and Venera missions, and the American Pioneer 4, did not allow mid-course maneuvers.

September 22, 2018 3:20 pm

Now, that is cool!
And, quite smart.

Thus, providing another example of what climate funds could have been used for, instead of International boondoggle conferences.

Tom Abbott
September 22, 2018 3:23 pm

Humans taking baby steps into the Greater Universe.

We’re moving on out! Slowly but surely.

Joel O'Bryan
September 22, 2018 3:27 pm

With this new “old” comment system, posts are disappearing into the ether again.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 22, 2018 3:56 pm

I just made one about 5 or 10 minutes ago that hasn’t shown up.
But, I might have made a typo in my screen name or my email address.

Reply to  Gunga Din
September 23, 2018 8:51 am

I found that checking one of the “Notify …” boxes before clicking “Post Comment” seems to force the comment to appear immediately. But, oddly, the notification doesn’t seem reliable, not that I care.

Reply to  Gunga Din
September 23, 2018 10:17 am

In my experience, patience is required…..they’ll show up.

John Tillman
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 22, 2018 4:00 pm

Back to the bad old future!

My comment on the Battle of Towton on the Blue Sun post didn’t appear and still hasn’t, so it must be presumed lost in Outer Cyberspace.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  John Tillman
September 22, 2018 6:35 pm

We’re just feeling Anthony’s pain with him. I just wish I knew enough about that stuff to lend a hand at restoring where we all were.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Pop Piasa
September 22, 2018 6:38 pm

Trolls and glitches- bloggers’ bitches.

John Tillman
Reply to  Pop Piasa
September 22, 2018 6:39 pm


It’s a pain to have to keep doing do-overs, but IMO we’ll get back to where we were.

The best way to help Anthony, for those of us who aren’t programmers, is to contribute to his site.

Reply to  John Tillman
September 23, 2018 8:53 am

I found that checking one of the “Notify …” boxes before clicking “Post Comment” seems to force the comment to appear immediately. But, oddly, the notification doesn’t seem reliable, not that I care

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
September 23, 2018 5:55 pm



I’ll try that.

Gunga Din
September 22, 2018 3:44 pm

Instead of wheels, the rovers have rotating motors inside that allow them to shift their momentum and, thus, make little jumps across the asteroid’s rugged surface.

If I understand this correctly, the motors are shifting weights to control the movements? Maybe using linear motors?

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Gunga Din
September 22, 2018 6:50 pm

I see it as the same as slight movements of your extremities changing your position on a properly adjusted inversion table.

Reply to  Gunga Din
September 23, 2018 7:56 am

All you would need is a small solenoid, that raises up a weight. The action would be against the asteroid, and the reaction would be a jump of the lander.


D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Gunga Din
September 23, 2018 10:19 am

If you are familiar with “Hex Bugs”, the children’s toy, they have a motor with an eccentric weight on it that causes a vibration that allows them to move forward. Something a little less vigorous might be used in a low G field.

Gunga Din
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
September 23, 2018 2:05 pm

One of my kids gave me a “Hex Bug” for Christmas a couple of years ago. Fun little mechanical cockroach. I like it.
The vibrations you mentioned transferred to the “feet” are what make it move. A controlled “throwing its weight around” without the “feet” may be how they hop around.

Jeff Alberts
September 22, 2018 4:16 pm

So, what would kinds of effects would we see if an asteroid of this size and composition struck Earth?

John Tillman
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
September 22, 2018 4:21 pm


An asteroid 900 m wide is on the verge of local and global effects, but tending to the local side:

I suppose its composition and where it hit would have an effect.

September 22, 2018 4:16 pm

Asteroid mining? Which commodity will be so valuable that it’s worth sending up a spaceship to mine it? Whoever wrote this blurb must have really bad teeth, because they’ve been spending all their time in a dentist’s waiting room reading old Time magazines full of stories about peak oil.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  rubberduck
September 22, 2018 4:24 pm

There are lots of useful materials to be mined in asteroids. If and when it will be worth the energy cost to do so is very much an open question. Gaining the ability to protect the planet against catastrophic asteriod strikes: the sooner the better. I’d gladly spend the entire planet’s renewable energy budget to make progress on this front.

John Tillman
Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
September 22, 2018 4:35 pm


The cheapest way to exploit them is to nudge them closer to Earth and into our orbit.

But that’s tickling the dragon’s tail, since they might fall to Earth once that close. However it would be a lot more cost effective to transport their resources from just beyond the moon than from between Mars and Jupiter. Nor would it take much energy to move them closer to us.

Eventually, humans might colonize the larger asteroids in the main belt. They have water.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  John Tillman
September 22, 2018 6:45 pm

Having them fall from orbit would be much less devastating, probably not much of a worry. Much less so that when travelling at the speeds they travel in space.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
September 22, 2018 7:15 pm

Fascinating thought. What would be the terminal velocity of a half-kilometer sized rock that simply fell out of orbit? Would it burn in re-entry?

John Tillman
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
September 22, 2018 10:20 pm


To be sure.

Low velocity falling from Earth orbit as opposed to crossing our path at high speed would make a huge difference.

But still, the mass and even low velocity of a kilometer range asteroid would not have a trivial effect on Earth.

John Tillman
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
September 22, 2018 10:21 pm


IMO a kilometer scale rock at whatever speed wouldn’t burn up in our atmosphere.

Indeed the lower its velocity, the less likely would it be consumed.

But what do I know? My degree is in biology, not astrophysics.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
September 23, 2018 11:11 am

I can think of a few places I would chose for it to just ‘fall’ out of orbit

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
September 23, 2018 8:54 am

Steer the asteroid for a moon landing. Trillions of tonnes of Ni-Pt group metals, rare earths, etc! It is a no brainer that if we can bring ourselves to ignore or find a cure for lefty Liliputianitis, it is natural that our space station should be the moon. Also, if we can make use of the abundant methane available in the solar system, to operate other outpost space exploration centres we will make the first steps toward being masters of the universe! (rocky planetary crusts are 50% oxygen). Okay, okay, I’ll go quietly now!

Reply to  rubberduck
September 22, 2018 7:21 pm

It costs a lot of money to launch material into space.
Lot’s cheaper if you can find what you need already there.

Nothing insane about it.

Reply to  MarkW
September 22, 2018 8:04 pm


There’s an enormous amount of processing to be done between finding ore and a finished component suitable for use on a spacecraft.

Further all the costs of processing would be up-front costs. You would have to transport mining equipment and personnel , smelting equipment and personnel, manufacturing equipment and personnel, and the food and fuel for them, into space. The equipment would have to be designed to work in space conditions, and repair and maintenance would have to be performed. Food and shelter, not to mention oxygen would also have to be transported from Earth to ‘the asteroid’ et al. I can’t imagine any situation on earth where it would not be cheaper to make any given component on earth and ship it into space than to manufacture the same thing in space.

I’m not saying this is ultimately impossible, but I do think it’s impossible or at least ‘insane’ for the next 100 years or so. At this point our abilities to live anywhere outside our native planet are not even at our level of ability to live in the Antarctic.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Lokki
September 22, 2018 9:11 pm

The electricity for a carbon arc-rod smelter is essentially free from enough solar panels. It is just getting it set-up in orbit that is the big up front cost.

Sort of like the industrial revolution was creating the first big smelters on Earth, 200 years ago.
After that… adding the coal and iron and coke was easy.

Baby steps lead to small steps lead to giant steps.
Asymptotic growth ever since.

But I doubt future humans will be able to solve the lethal radiation problem of beyond LEO any time in the next century.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 23, 2018 1:02 pm

I think if people are going for large scale industrial projects in space then dealing with the radiation problems using artificial magnetic fields and water shielding wouldn’t be insurmountable.

James Beaver
Reply to  Lokki
September 23, 2018 10:43 am

You’re underestimating the capabilities of robotics to do a great deal of this work. You don’t need personnel nearly as much as imagined, which reduces the need for the myriad supplies a living person requires.

Reply to  Lokki
September 23, 2018 1:34 pm

Once you build the equipment, moving it from one asteroid to another is close to free.
Make it an automated factory, why on earth would you want to send humans to do this?
The energy is free from the sun.

Reply to  Lokki
September 25, 2018 4:27 am

Depends on what the component is. If it’s a big, heavy radiation shield, an asteroid might be just what you need.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  rubberduck
September 22, 2018 7:25 pm

If you were a fan of “Lost In Space” you would think there is Platinum to be found on any asteroid that curiously enough has a breathable atmosphere and a surface flat enough for “robot” to roll on.
Just be sceptical of Dr. Smith’s motives.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Pop Piasa
September 22, 2018 9:46 pm

The conniving, whiny, little dirt-bag Dr. Smith would have “breathed the vacuum” on Episode 1 of The Expanse. No tolerance for his whiny type. Too much like today’s Liberals.

As well as on my spaceship if I had been Dr Smith’s Captain. Go visit the air lock Dr Smith.

“Some people just need killing.” sez Amos. (see, The Expanse)

Reply to  rubberduck
September 23, 2018 1:45 am

Perhaps not to bring it back down to Earth [water?].

But if you want to build something up “there” and you’ve got access to a great lump of iron-nickel-cobalt alloy that’s in the neighbourhood you’ve got a good start

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  GregK
September 29, 2018 7:57 am

Wouldn’t you have to build an alloy refinery in orbit or on the moon?

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
September 29, 2018 8:29 am

Certainly, it will be more efficient to “land” the refined ore on the earth’s surface than the entire rock.
More important, the refined ore is much lower mass than the entire rock (even with the nickle-iron asteroids) so reducing its speed to “not-quite-impact velocities” is much easier. (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress uses Heinlein’s predictions of bombarding earth from space with city-busting loads even before rockets could reach orbit! Like satellites “hovering” over earth in stationary orbits, the rise of global liberal “nice thoughts” and social theories, he foresaw many things now coming true.)
A complete rock hitting the ground “splashes” its “load” (the ore) all around the crater in near-unusable melted lava with much of its useful mass hidden under the crater walls. Refining ore in space presents problems of its own though.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
September 22, 2018 4:18 pm

It’s refreshing to see real accomplishments in pursuit of real useful information. Two thumbs up to everyone involved in making this happen.

September 22, 2018 5:14 pm

Moving on a tiny asteroid is difficult. Hop too high and escape the asteroid gravity. But at only 18 cm in size, how does it get around rocks or surface pits larger than it is, especially if these features are common?

John Tillman
Reply to  donb
September 22, 2018 5:19 pm


By hopping over or around them?

Lonodon 247
Reply to  donb
September 23, 2018 10:47 am

They use large round rubber balls with a couple of horns for grip. A technology from the 60s called space hoppers.
Jesting aside, great accomplishment by Japan and great science.

September 22, 2018 5:17 pm

My faith in science and technology has been renewed.

September 22, 2018 5:23 pm

The first Hyabusa mission to ‘25143 Itokawa’ was an epic saga.
Launch took place in 2003 and the spacecraft arrived in the vicinity of Itokawa on 12 September 2005. It initially “parked” in an asteroid–Sun line at 20 km (12 mi), and later 7 km (4.3 mi), from the asteroid (Itokawa’s gravity was too weak to provide an orbit, so the spacecraft adjusted its orbit around the Sun until it matched the asteroid’s). From there, it studied the asteroid’s shape, spin, topography, colour, composition, density, and history. On 20 November Hayabusa landed on the asteroid’s surface for thirty minutes, but it failed to operate a device designed to collect soil samples. On 25 November, a second landing and sampling sequence was attempted. Then the communications and ion engines failed. By March 2006 communication had been restored. By June 2006, they could confirm that 2 of the 4 engines were working. Hayabusa started its return journey in April 2007. This took several years because of the low power of the ion engines (which failed and revived several times.) By March 2010, Hayabusa was on a trajectory to pass within the lunar orbit. After a series of Trajectory Correction Manoeuvres the re-entry capsule and the spacecraft re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on 13 June 2010

zack aa
Reply to  JCalvertN(UK)
September 22, 2018 9:03 pm

“It is scheduled to orbit the asteroid for about a year and a half before returning to Earth in late 2020.”
How will the Hayabusa Mothership “orbit” an asteroid with negligible gravity. Is that a euphimism for coast along in parallel along the asteroid’s orbit?

Reply to  zack aa
September 23, 2018 1:27 pm

Yes. It will ‘ coast along in parallel along the asteroid’s orbit’.

A C Osborn
Reply to  JCalvertN(UK)
September 23, 2018 4:25 am

That is what I find so sad about this post.
NASA could have done this starting 20+ years ago, getting to the Moon first and winning the “Race” killed the government’s appetite for further exploration at that time.

Tom Halla
Reply to  A C Osborn
September 23, 2018 4:37 am

My take was that Nixon considered the space program as reflecting favorably on Kennedy, so Nixon despised the program for that reason. The McGovern wing of the Democrats wanted the funding for whatever domestic programs that would pay off their supporters.

September 22, 2018 6:06 pm

“Twin Japanese robotic rovers land”

Gads! For a second I read, “Twin Japanese robotic LOVERS land”.

It must be time for an eye exam, or space is getting more interesting.

J Mac
September 22, 2018 7:09 pm

I love it!
Real science, done by real scientists and engineers, exploring our solar system!

Pop Piasa
Reply to  J Mac
September 22, 2018 8:06 pm

That would be a combination of decreasing presbyopic eye focus and increasing Freudian mind focus.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Pop Piasa
September 22, 2018 8:12 pm

That was supposed to be under Bob’s comment. Weird!

Joel O’Bryan
September 22, 2018 7:09 pm

Speaking of asteroids and asteroid hopping (really!)….

Hey if anyone is bored with fall TV line up and has Amazon Prime, I highly recommend
The Expanse from SyFy channel, available free to Prime members.

The first few episodes of Season 1 are confusing, but stay with it and you’ll be hooked.
Promise. It’s good.
By the end of season 1 you’ll be binge watching like Millenial.

Season 3 ended in this past July, so all 3 seasons are available for binge watching. Season 3 got an unheard of 100% Rotten Tomato rating (that’s astronomically good for you sci-fi buff).

James Beaver
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
September 23, 2018 10:55 am

The books are very good, and make more sense than the video adaptation. Season 1 of “The Expanse” is based on “Leviathan Wakes” by James S.A. Corey ( a collective pseudonym for Nebula award-nominee Daniel Abraham, and Ty Franck). I have the whole set. There are three seasons of “The Expanse” on video. The books get too complex for a TV show beyond book 3.

September 22, 2018 7:41 pm

If both robots survive their missions do you think JS will make them fight?

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  prjndigo
September 22, 2018 7:49 pm

The Japanese should have given them cool names like BumbleBee or Optimus Prime and then sold the marketing rights …

Pop Piasa
September 22, 2018 8:05 pm

That would be a combination of decreasing presbyopic eye focus and increasing Freudian mind focus.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Pop Piasa
September 22, 2018 8:08 pm

Misplaced by glitch, sorry,

September 22, 2018 8:37 pm

NASA Recentky announced there is ONE asteroid comprised of $10,000 quadrillion worth of rare minerals. There are probably 100’s if not 1,000’s of asteroids like this…

It’s only a matter of time before the private sector develops the technology to make space mining possible and astronomically profitable, and the damned governement should keep their thieving hands out of this new future industry..

The only things governments should provide are space: police, military, treaties and judicial protection.

Trump’s newly proposed Space Force is the first step in this process.

I think space mining could be a viable industry within a relatively short period of time (50 years?) given the astronomical potential profits involved—providing feckless governments hacks don’t get involved and muck everything up…

Pop Piasa
Reply to  SAMURAI
September 22, 2018 9:06 pm

Mining of asteroids involves several things which complicate human participation. Radiation, proton storms, micrometeorites, and the long-term effects of microgravity. to name some of the “knowns”.
I think 50 years is a little too optimistic.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Pop Piasa
September 22, 2018 10:02 pm

solution: Robotics and AI.
While we sit on the beach on a Caribbean island and watch from our tablets.

The radiation environment is just far too lethal for us biologics.

Dodgy Geezer
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 23, 2018 1:43 am

Actually, we won’t just want to ‘space mine’. Why shift raw material through gravity fields? Move the factories to the raw materials and build the consumer goods out there – then ship the valuable items where they are needed.

James Blish’s ‘Cities in Flight’ series applies…

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
September 23, 2018 10:31 am

Also see John Ringo’s “Troy Rising” series. Of course the protagonists get a boost from a little alien technology, but the principals are fairly sound, I think.

P.S. Does anyone know why the web site refuses to remember my sign-in info? I have to enter my name and email with every post.

A C Osborn
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 23, 2018 4:31 am

That is why the first thing you do is bore a big hole in the asteroid to live in, protected from all that radiation.
The second thing is to attach an Icy comet to the asteroid for water and air.
The really good Science fiction writers have worked out most of the solutions to the problems that you describe, with the proper participation it should just be a matter of time.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  A C Osborn
September 23, 2018 11:16 am

you should do the impulse momentum calculations for the necessary delta-v to see how much total impulse you need to slow down a typical comet so it could be attached to your asteroid object.

Reply to  Pop Piasa
September 22, 2018 11:08 pm

We’ll be amazed what the private sector is willing to invest to get a piece of $10,000 quadrillion X 100 or times 1,000?.

It will require world governments to stop stealing $100’s of trillions from the private sector, but more and more hard-working people around the world are getting sick and tired of governments stealing from them for services they can easily provide for themselves through the the private sector…

Once governments only steal about 10% of global GDP, the amount of money available to the private secotor for projects like this will be staggering…

Granted, a big if, but people are getting sick of being lied to and robbed by government hacks.

Reply to  SAMURAI
September 23, 2018 1:34 pm

Yes. We could easily have colonized much of the solar system by now. But, instead, the left sucked up the money and blew it on a bloated welfare state.

James Beaver
Reply to  Pop Piasa
September 23, 2018 10:57 am

Planetary Resources [] believes otherwise. They’ve invested a great deal of their own money to that end.

Pop Piasa
September 22, 2018 8:52 pm

Are they possibly looking for the birthplace of Ultraman? 😁

Dennis Kuzara
September 22, 2018 9:42 pm

Asteroid Ryugu from an altitude of 6km. Image was captured with the Optical Navigation Camera – Telescopic (ONC-T) on July 20, 2018 at around 16:00 JST.
Image credit ※: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST.

Dodgy Geezer
September 23, 2018 1:39 am

I don’t think anyone understands how awful this news is!!

The Earth has limited resources, and we have already used most of them up. We must stop being a drain on Gaia, and live within our means – sustainably, using natural rock shelters as we were meant to. We must never think of using material that is not on this planet – that is for our children’s children…

ALL the asteroids are joined together in a gravitational dance. Until we are able to account for every movement of every speck of dust orbiting the Sun, from now until it dies, we should not touch anything. The Precautionary Principle should apply. We may look through telescopes, but NEVER touch.

Hands Off the Solar System!


A C Osborn
Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
September 23, 2018 4:33 am

I am really glad that you added the sarc tag there, you really had me going.

Dodgy Geezer
Reply to  A C Osborn
September 23, 2018 5:01 am

It’s hard to parody environmental thinking. They will always go one better…

Peta of Newark
September 23, 2018 2:59 am

Okaaaaay… these Japanese folks have done what Japanese folks are good at – concentrated on technical minutiae and got it work.
Good on ’em

But weren’t all these noises about science and knowledge and resources made about the Moon?
What became of that?
Oh you say we got:
Computers – a very mixed blessing to say the least, not least as The Computer as an object of authority is propelling the climate scare

Science – what science? What science can you do on bits of wasted old rock, the same rocks as are pushed out of earth-bound volcanoes daily?

Memory Foam- Do not get me started…..

Teflon. Somewhat useful but lets face it, a well-seasoned cast-iron pan is just as non-stick and lasts a good deal longer. And Teflon is plastic. ha ha

Knowledge. Yes we got that alright. We learned about Alpha male-ism, biggest bestest fastest firstest, Why else go to all that effort and the very first thing you do is stick a 6 foot flagpole into the thing. You don’t get any more blatant phallic symbolism that that.
Also a revelation of what frightened and primitive little creatures we are. The Moon has scared the sh1t out of humans since they first ever saw the thing. That is why it had to be conquered and ‘poked with a pointy thing’. We were scared of it and the only way human males can even try to get over that is by sticking their things into ‘whatever’

Mining. Nice. But this mined goodness has to ‘land’ somewhere. Somewhere useful ideally.
Considering what happens to old Sputniks in that they fall to the ground and, despite all the best computers and radars and telescopes, its is never a dead-cert where they will hit.
Apart from ‘somewhere in the Pacific’ maybe
Exactly what you want for your quadrillion $$$ shipment of cobalt.

Despite what people imagine about flying in airplanes as being super safe, insurance companies will tell you different. They count the number of journeys, rather than the number of miles covered. The important bit is the take-off and landing and looking the risks that way, flying is almost as risky as motorcycle riding.
Let’s gently remind ourselves of 2 particular Shuttle calamities

For the space miners, are you really saying you’re safe to be trying to land 10,000, 100,000 or megatonne sized loads of rock onto the quayside at Long Beach?
Considering that if that load just fell out of almost any earth orbit, it would still be moving at earth escape-velocity when it hit the ground – 25,000mph.
Did 9/11 involve 200 tonnes going at 300mph?
Are You Nuts

Put your willies away lads, its getting cold out. ‘Engage brain’ instead. (Responded to that letter yet? You know – the one from your wife’s lawyer? It all connects together.)
Me thinks Hollywood has a lot to answer for here – what did James T Kirk do at the end of every episode in order to ‘conquer his fear’ of the mysterious and scary (good looking female) alien?

E J Zuiderwijk
Reply to  Peta of Newark
September 23, 2018 4:24 am

Methinks you need to get a life. But then again, what good would that do?p

A C Osborn
Reply to  Peta of Newark
September 23, 2018 4:35 am

With your attitude we would still be living in caves.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Peta of Newark
September 29, 2018 8:03 am

“Computers – a very mixed blessing to say the least”

Indeed, since it allows nonsense like yours to be broadcast to the world.

September 23, 2018 9:37 am

Attach a rocket to it , fly it into Moon’s orbit and crush it onto the South pole where apparently there is some ice which will melt under impact to provide temporary reservoir of water, while strategically positioned seismograms on the Moon’s surface would enable accurate mapping of its interior.

Reply to  vukcevic
September 23, 2018 10:29 am

typo: seismographs, seismometers

Jon Jewett
September 23, 2018 7:26 pm

I went to Japan first in 1965 (my 20th birthday coincidentally) . The last time in 1993 when my ship was transferred to the Caribbean. I got to know the Japanese, warts and all. I like them. Good for them.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Jon Jewett
September 29, 2018 8:04 am

Have they ever apologized for their treatment of POWs in WWII?

September 24, 2018 2:49 pm


I’ll even ignore the space mining nonsense talk….this time.

John Tillman
September 28, 2018 10:12 am
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