Last fall the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 finally pulled up alongside asteroid Ryugu and got to work. It's been buzzing around the asteroid ever since.
(I created a few videos for this post, please let me know if they don't work.)
It already put two rovers on the surface, each one about seven inches across.
One rover took time out to film a short video.
The sun looks like it's moving across the 'sky' but it's not. The asteroid is slowly rotating. The rover took a picture about every five minutes, so the movie covers around an hour and fifteen minutes on the surface.
By the way, the rovers don't 'rove', they 'hop'. With such low gravity, if a rover started rolling it'd float right off the surface. Instead, it makes a 'jump' that lifts it about 15 feet off the surface at the top of the arc. Around 15 minutes later after moving about 50 feet, it gently lands again. Sounds like fun. A third rover gets dropped this October.
The spacecraft also 'tossed a grenade out the window'. Here it is, spinning slowly down to the surface.
Presto, a small crater.
The plan is to land near that crater this October, scoop up some asteroid bits from the pit, store the sample safely inside, then lift off.
It's scheduled to leave the asteroid by the end of this year then head back home, a trip that'll take about a year. Then: science.
This is a race, sorta kinda. NASA's asteroid-chaser is headed to a different asteroid to grab a sample and bring it back.