In a history first, this weekend saw Japan become the first nation on Earth to successfully land rovers on a moving asteroid. The Japanese space agent responsible for the mission, JAXA, has already begun collecting images and samples for further research.

According to the agency, two rovers were deployed from the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft, onto the asteroid Ryugu. Situated 313 kilometres from Earth, the Japanese spacecraft had been travelling for four years before encountering the object. On June 27, Hayabusa-2 arrived at the asteroid, remaining at a distance of 20km from it before moving to a distance of 4km on July 16. Eventually, the rovers were released, landing on September 21.

While the rovers – coined MINERVA-II – begin collecting images and surface temperature data, the mothership will begin its descend on to the asteroid in late October to collect rock and soil samples. Scientists hope that this mission will bring light to the complicated origin of our solar system.

Further on in the mission, JAXA will make its attempt to detonate an explosive charge that will create a crater into the surface of Ryugu, where Hayabusa-2 would then travel into the crater to collect fresh rocks that have not been altered by exposure to space.

The spacecraft will depart the asteroid during December 2019, returning to earth with samples in 2020.

Cover Image: Twitter @hayabusa2@JAXA