A Vega launcher lifted off Tuesday night from a spaceport at the edge of South America’s Amazon rainforest, climbed into orbit on the power of four Italian- and Ukrainian-built rocket stages, and successfully deployed a French-built, Moroccan-owned military surveillance satellite nearly 400 miles above Earth.
The MASCOT lander released from Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft this week made three hops to different locations on asteroid Ryugu before draining its battery, outliving its design life and sending back data from all four of its instruments, according to German and French officials who developed the surface robot.
Track the progress of the MASCOT lander, a tiny robot developed in Germany and France, as it explores asteroid Ryugu for a daring mission to hop across the austere world’s boulder-strewn landscape, taking pictures and collecting scientific data along the way. The robotic probe was released from the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft around 0200 GMT Wednesday (10 p.m. EDT Tuesday), and touched down a few minutes later.
The Japanese Hayabusa 2 spacecraft dropped within a half-mile of asteroid Ryugu last week, probing its gravity field ahead of key decisions in the coming days to settle on a target site for the robotic mission’s first sample collection attempt, and the best touchdown location for a European lander stowed on the mothership.