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MASCOT—The Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout Onboard the Hayabusa2 Mission

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On December 3rd, 2014, the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) launched successfully the Hayabusa2 (HY2) spacecraft to its journey to Near Earth asteroid (162173) Ryugu. Aboard this spacecraft is a compact landing package, MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid surface SCOuT), which was developed by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) in collaboration with the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES). Similar to the famous predecessor mission Hayabusa, Hayabusa2, will also study an asteroid and return samples to Earth. This time, however, the target is a C-type asteroid which is considered to be more primitive than (25143) Itokawa and provide insight into an even earlier stage of our Solar System.

Upon arrival at asteroid Ryugu in 2018, MASCOT will be released from the HY2 spacecraft and gently descend by free fall from an altitude of about 100 m to the surface of the asteroid. After a few bounces, the lander will come to rest at the surface and perform its scientific investigations of the surface structure and mineralogical composition, the thermal behaviour and the magnetic properties by operating its four scientific instruments. Those include an IR imaging spectrometer (MicrOmega, IAS Paris), a camera (MASCAM, DLR Berlin), a radiometer (MARA, DLR Berlin) and a magnetometer (MASMAG, TU Braunschweig).

In order to allow optimized payload operations the thermal design of MASCOT is required to cope with the contrasting requirements of the 4-year cruise in cold environment versus the hot conditions on the surface of the asteroid. Operations up to 2 asteroid days (∼16 hours) based on a primary battery are currently envisaged. A mobility mechanism allows locomotion on the surface. The mechanism is supported by an attitude and motion sensing system and an intelligent autonomy manager, which is implemented in the onboard software that enables MASCOT to operate fully independently when ground intervention is not available.

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MASCOT was developed and built under the leadership of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) with contributions (battery and PCDU subsystems) from the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

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Ho, TM., Baturkin, V., Grimm, C. et al. MASCOT—The Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout Onboard the Hayabusa2 Mission. Space Sci Rev 208, 339–374 (2017).

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