The Japanese space agency will land two robots on an asteroid next month – the latest step in historic plans to explore its surface and bring samples back to Earth.
The mission to the 1km-wide space rock, known as Ryugu, could provide clues not only to the asteroid’s formation but to the formation of our solar system.
The Japanese space agency have now selected dates for the deployment of smaller crafts from Hayabusa-2.
The Hayabusa-2 spacecraft arrived at the asteroid, some 186 million miles from Earth, in June. Since then, engineers have been working on plans to explore Ryugu’s surface.
The first will fall on 21 September, when small robots will hop out of Hayabusa-2 and onto the asteroid’s surface, exploring it and sending images back home.
Then on 3 October the spacecraft will drop a package called Mascot, built by scientists in Germany and France, that will further explore the surface.
Two later missions will see a lander drop onto the asteroid and scientists blast a hole in the surface in order to explore what lies beneath.
Hayabusa-2 will then make its way onto the surface to pick up samples. Then, in perhaps the most astounding part of the mission, the samples will be carried back to Earth allowing scientists to study objects that have travelled the solar system.
The spacecraft will depart the asteroid in December 2019 and is due to arrive back on Earth in the following year.
* This article was automatically syndicated and expanded from The Independent.