The MASCOT lander is equipped with a special microscope to examine the minerals on the asteroid's surface. Scientists hope this will help unlock the mysteries of the solar system's beginnings.
The French-German Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander was released from an unmanned Japanese spacecraft on Wednesday. A few hours later, Japanese space agency JAXA confirmed that the scout hand landed on the Ryugu asteroid, 325 million kilometers (201 million miles) from earth.
Researchers hope that the lander will be able to provide vital information about the organic substances and hydrated minerals believed to be contained in the 900-meter (3,000-foot) asteroid. The readings from these substances could provide vital information about the origin and evolution of the solar system.
The lander also has a wide-angle camera to capture its surroundings and a spectroscopic microscope on the bottom to examine minerals on the asteroid's surface.
"The researchers will be watching with excitement in the minutes and hours after touchdown, as it is impossible to predict how MASCOT will move on the surface according to the laws of physics alone," said the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
The DLR created the probe alongside the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES),which was carried to the asteroid by the Japanese ship Hayabusa2.
Hayabusa2 was travelling towards the Ryugu asteroid for two years before finally reaching it in June. Last month, it deployed two MINERVA-II1 jumping observation rovers to the other side of the asteroid.
The Hayabusa2 is also scheduled to land briefly on the asteroid itself, in the hopes it can collect samples to bring back to Earth.
es/aw (dpa, AFP)