Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) landing site.
Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo and collaborators

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft.
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft will deploy in October the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT).

In consultation with more than 100 international and national partners, the MASCOT landing site was selected. MASCOT’s landing is scheduled for October 3, 2018.

Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) tucked in on Hayabusa2.
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Rover landing spots

Also, the locations at which the Hayabusa2 spacecraft is expected to take soil samples have been designated, as have the sites where the three MINVERVA-II rovers will be placed on the asteroid’s surface.

MINERVA-II-1 is a container that will deploy two rovers, ROVER-1A and ROVER-1B, developed by JAXA and the University of Aizu. The MINERVA-II-2 container holds the ROVER-2, developed by a consortium of universities led by Tohoku University.

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

MA-9

Located at approximately 315 degrees east and 30 degrees south, the place at which MASCOT is to land and carry out measurements on the asteroid’s surface using four instruments is, at the moment, still simply called “MA-9.”

The landing site area has several advantages.

Firstly, it is far enough from the regions in which Hayabusa2 will descend to the surface and take soil samples, therefore MASCOT and Hayabusa2 will not get in each other’s way as they perform their activities.

Secondly, the landing site lies in Ryugu’s southern hemisphere, so with the data collected by Hayabusa2 at the equator and MINERVA in the northern hemisphere, scientists will be able to gain good coverage of and investigate the over half-mile (950-meter-diameter) asteroid.

The MASCOT lander is set to land on the blue-marked ellipse MA-9. The Hayabusa2 probe will approach the asteroid surface at location L07 (L08 and M04 are substitute landing sites, where it will take samples. The MINERVA rovers will be dropped off at the red marked landing N6.
Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo and collaborators

Numerous boulders

According to a DLR press statement, in the vicinity of the MASCOT landing site, there are numerous boulders up to 30 meters tall. But the really big rocks are not located in the MA-9 region.

Images acquired by the optical navigation camera on the Hayabusa2 probe, explains the DLR, indicate that the landing site area probably holds fresher material that had little exposure to cosmic radiation, the particle flow of solar winds, as well as interplanetary dust – and is therefore still very primordial and in an unchanged state.

Close cooperation

The German-French lander MASCOT on board Hayabusa2 was developed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). It was built in close cooperation with the French space agency, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES).

On December 3, 2014, the Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 embarked on a sample return mission to asteroid (162173) Ryugu (formerly designated 1999 JU3).

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