Oct. 12 (UPI) -- The German lander MASCOT has completed its first scientific "stroll" across the asteroid Ryugu.
After being released last week by Hayabusa-2, the Japanese space agency probe circling Ryugu, MASCOT conducted a 17-hour scientific exploration, using its instruments to conduct experiments at several locations on the asteroid's surface.
Hayabusa-2's camera helped scientists track the path of MASCOT's stroll.
"This success was possible thanks to state-of-the-art robotic technology, long-term planning and intensive international cooperation between the scientists and engineers of the three space nations Japan, France and Germany," Hansjörg Dittus, scientist at the German Aerospace Center, said in a news release.
The Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout was designed by engineers in France and Germany. The design team outfitted the lander with a small infrared spectroscopic microscope. During its stroll, MASCOT used the instrument to analyze the composition of Ryugu's surface.
MASCOT also used its thermal radiometer to measure electromagnetic radiation and its magnetometer to detect magnetic fields.
"We are proud of how MASCOT was able to master its way across the asteroid Ryugu over boulders and rocks and send so much data about its composition back to Earth," said mission scientist Pascale Ehrenfreund.
After its release and free fall, MASCOT bounced eight times along the asteroid's surface. The lander ended up in the wrong position, but used a spring-like mechanism to reorient itself.
Images recorded by Hayabusa-2's camera suggest the asteroid's surface is even more rugged than initially thought. Scientists are currently analyzing the data collected by MASCOT's instrument to get a better senses of the asteroid's surface features and composition.
"Everything is covered in rough blocks and strewn with boulders. How compact these blocks are and what they are composed of, we still do not know," said Ralf Jaumann, scientist at the DLR Institute of Planetary Research. "But what was most surprising was that large accumulations of fine material are nowhere to be found -- and we did not expect that. We have to investigate this in the next few weeks, because the cosmic weathering would actually have had to produce fine material."