Drop zone for MASCOT
Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo & Collaborators

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 space probe is slated to deploy on October 3 the asteroid lander, the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT).

Upon landing on asteroid Ryugu, MASCOT will only be reachable during a few time windows. Sending a command to the lander and receiving a response back on Earth will take more than 30 minutes.

MASCOT will thus be left largely to its own devices during the 16-hour-long measurement operation planned on the space rock’s surface.

Deployment time from Hayabusa2 is early in the morning, at 03:58:15 CEST.

MASCOT control center
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Into the unknown

From MASCOT’s first moment of contact with the surface, this will be a journey into the unknown. The lander could come to rest almost anywhere within a radius of roughly 700 feet (200 meters) from the point of touchdown, after bouncing a few times.

It is planned that MASCOT will land in the southern hemisphere of the Ryugu asteroid. This location has a favorable day and night cycle and a temperature range neither too hot nor too cold for the lander. The rocks around the landing site are not too big, but there are numerous boulders measuring up to 100 feet (30 meters) in height, which present an additional challenge.

Lander control is at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) in Cologne. They will be expecting confirmation of the landing.

Landing concerns

At that time, MASCOT will have come to rest and will start taking comprehensive scientific measurements. The lander will remain there for about 16 hours before craft’s battery runs out.

Artwork depicts MASCOT on asteroid surface.
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

“We do not know in which direction and for how long MASCOT will bounce around after the initial touchdown, and we are of course hoping that it will not end up on terrain that is too soft or get stuck in a crevice, where it could not straighten itself,” explains DLR’s MASCOT Operations Manager Christian Krause.

“However, we are optimistic because we ran through numerous scenarios on the ground and have sent the corresponding command sequences to MASCOT,” said Krause in a press statement.

Want to follow?

The DLR Institute of Space Systems in Bremen was responsible for developing and testing the lander together with the French space agency, CNES.

Here’s an informative and good luck MASCOT video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=68&v=q4oenCRPFZA

Want to follow? Go to:

The Twitter account @MASCOT2018 will be posting the very latest information before and during the landing using the hashtag #asteroidlanding

Go to live feed on deployment day at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axqedwOW-jo

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