Image of MASCOT photographed with the optical navigation camera (ONC-W1), taken 2 minutes and 20 seconds after the lander separated from the spacecraft. The ONC-W1 is attached to the bottom of the spacecraft, so the view is directly below Hayabusa2. At this point, the spacecraft is rising slowly. MASCOT is the white dot and has not yet landed on the asteroid surface, so the lander casts a shadow that creates a black dot on the surface of Ryugu. Beside it is the shadow of Hayabusa2. If you enlarge the white dot of MASCOT it appears as if there is a white round dot inside a black square. It seems that it is the base (bottom) of MASCOT that is visible. The shining white dot is thought to be the antenna.
Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo & collaborators

Japan’s Hayabusa2 successfully deployed the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT), a lander developed in Germany and France.

The small asteroid lander separated from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft on October 3 and safely touched down on the surface of asteroid Ryugu. MASCOT operated for about 17 hours.

Caught on camera

After landing, MASCOT acquired scientific data on the asteroid surface, which was transmitted to the MASCOT team via the spacecraft for analysis.

MASCOT en route to asteroid’s surface photographed by an optical navigation camera onboard the Hayabusa2 spacecraft. The ONC-W2 is a camera attached to the side of the spacecraft and is shooting diagonally downward from Hayabusa2. MASCOT appears in the upper edge of the image.
Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo & collaborators

From the Hayabusa2 spacecraft, the separated MASCOT was caught by two optical navigation cameras (ONC-W1, ONC-W2).

MASCOT came to rest on the surface approximately 20 minutes after the separation. MASCOT was ejected at an altitude of roughly 167 feet (51 meters) and descended in free fall – slower than an earthly pedestrian – to its space rock destination.

Swing arm

Upon landing, MASCOT relocated itself using a built-in swing arm. All instruments collected detailed data on the composition and nature of the asteroid. The on-board camera provided pictures of the landing, hopping maneuvers and various locations on the asteroid’s surface.

Underside base surface of MASCOT lander. The round white circle is the antenna.
Credit: DLR

MASCOT moved several meters to the next measuring point. Finally, and seeing that the lander still had battery power left, operators made a bigger jump.

Silent inhabitant

All in all, MASCOT explored Ryugu for three asteroid days and two asteroid nights. A day-night cycle on Ryugu lasts about 7 hours and 36 minutes. Three hops in three asteroid days – MASCOT successfully completed the exploration of the surface of asteroid Ryugu.

Estimated MASCOT landing point indicated on the Ryugu image taken from the home position of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft.
Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo & collaborators

MASCOT is now a silent inhabitant of Ryugu. “The evaluation of the valuable data has just begun,” says MASCOT project manager Tra-Mi Ho from the DLR Institute of Space Systems.

Hayabusa2 is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission to the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu.

The German-French lander MASCOT was developed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and built in close cooperation with the French space agency CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales).

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