As I post this, Hayabusa 2 is already on its slow approach from 20 km out, this time to deploy a slightly larger rover with more science capabilities.
Wikipedia says: “The Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) was developed by the German Aerospace Center in cooperation with the French space agency CNES. It measures 29.5 cm × 27.5 cm × 19.5 cm and has a mass of 9.6 kg (21 lb). MASCOT carries an infrared spectrometer, a magnetometer, a radiometer and a camera that will image the small-scale structure, distribution and texture of the regolith, and is capable of tumbling to reposition itself for further measurements. It will investigate the surface structure and mineralogical composition, the thermal behaviour and the magnetic properties of the asteroid. It has a non-rechargeable battery that will allow for operations for no more than 16 hours.”
I haven’t yet found an estimated time for the minimum altitude/deployment.
Periodic live (i.e., immediately posted when received) pictures of Ryugu during the approach can be seen here.
EDIT: It’s deployed. This (if the link holds; I still don’t have a hosting solution) is a shot that MASCOT took as it was slowly falling… capturing its own boxy shadow.
I enjoyed the JAXA live briefing
. Lots of information, and this time the interpreting and everything was working better. (They showed a colorfully labeled flat-map representation of Ryugu’s surface… and I despaired of reading it in any meaningful way. Why not just have and rotate a rough 3-D model?) :-)
Now that’s over, and I can’t find the German (DLR) streaming presentation. In any case, here’s a fun video trailer for MASCOT.
And, now that our mood’s up, here’s a video (in German; captioned in English) that gives some details.