See the First Photo of Asteroid Ryugu from the Hopping MASCOT Lander!

The German-French Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander captured this photo of asteroid Ryugu during landing operations on Oct. 3, 2018. The lander’s shadow is visible at upper right. Credit: German Aerospace Center (DLR)
A small European probe about the size of a shoebox successfully landed on the asteroid Ryugu overnight last night and its first photo is a doozy: a shadow „selfie“ showing the space rock just before the landing. 

By Tariq Malik |

The photo, released today (Oct. 3), was captured by the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT, which landed on Ryugu after being released from its Japanese mothership Hayabusa2 from a height of just 167 feet (51 meters). It took 20 minutes for the lander to reach the surface of Ryugu, with MASCOT’s first photo revealing a rocky, pitted terrain, and even the probe’s boxy shadow in the image’s upper right corner. Asteroid Ryugu was about 186 million miles (300 million kilometers) from Earth at the time, DLR officials said.

„The camera worked perfectly,“ said Ralf Jaumann, a planetary scientist with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) that built MASCOT, in a statement. „The team’s first images of the camera are therefore safe.“ [The Greatest Asteroid Encounters of All Time!]

Jaumann is the scientific director for MASCOT’s camera MASCAM, which snapped 20 photos of Ryugu during its short descent to the asteroid’s surface. MASCOT’s battery should last about 16 hours after landing, DLR officials have said.

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