The MAS­COT lan­der

Asteroid lander MASCOT on board the Hayabusa2 space probe
As­ter­oid lan­der MAS­COT on board the Hayabusa2 space probe
Image 1/7, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Asteroid lander MASCOT on board the Hayabusa2 space probe

The Japanese Hayabusa2 space probe has com­plet­ed a 3200-mil­lion-kilo­me­tre long jour­ney car­ry­ing the Ger­man-French lan­der MAS­COT (Mo­bile As­ter­oid Sur­face Scout).
Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT)
Mo­bile As­ter­oid Sur­face Scout (MAS­COT)
Image 2/7, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT)

MAS­COT is a high­ly in­te­grat­ed as­ter­oid lan­der de­vel­oped by DLR in co­op­er­a­tion with CNES and JAXA.
Hopping on an asteroid with the help of a spring mechanism
Hop­ping on an as­ter­oid with the help of a spring mech­a­nism
Image 3/7, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Hopping on an asteroid with the help of a spring mechanism

MAS­COT can change po­si­tion with the help of the swing arm en­sur­ing that it is in the cor­rect po­si­tion.
MASCOT camera MASCAM
MAS­COT cam­era MAS­CAM
Image 4/7, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

MASCOT camera MASCAM

The MAS­CAM cam­era, de­vel­oped by the DLR In­sti­tute of Plan­e­tary Re­search, will start cap­tur­ing im­ages dur­ing the de­scent to Ryugu. Af­ter land­ing, it will pho­to­graph the sur­round­ing area from the land­ing site to the hori­zon in high res­o­lu­tion, and will car­ry out ge­o­log­i­cal and phys­i­cal mea­sure­ments of the sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment and the sub­soil from the as­ter­oid’s sur­face.
The MARA radiometer
The MARA ra­diome­ter
Image 5/7, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

The MARA radiometer

The MARA ra­diome­ter of the DLR In­sti­tute of Plan­e­tary Re­search serves to de­ter­mine the sur­face tem­per­a­ture as well as the ther­mal prop­er­ties of the re­golith.
The MAG magnetometer
The MAG mag­ne­tome­ter
Image 6/7, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

The MAG magnetometer

The MAG mag­ne­tome­ter, de­vel­oped by the In­sti­tute for Geo­physics and Ex­trater­res­tri­al Physics at the Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty of Braun­schweig, will de­ter­mine the as­ter­oid’s mag­net­ic field.
The MicrOmega infrared spectrometer
The Mi­crOmega in­frared spec­trom­e­ter
Image 7/7, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

The MicrOmega infrared spectrometer

The Mi­crOmega in­frared spec­trom­e­ter, a de­vice from the In­sti­tut d‘As­tro­physique Spa­tiale (Paris), will in­ves­ti­gate the min­er­alog­i­cal com­po­si­tion of the re­golith.

MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) is a mobile box-shaped landing device measuring 30 x 30 x 20 centimetres and weighing approximately 10 kilograms. It accommodates four scientific instruments designed to study the surface of the asteroid Ryugu in detail.

The structure itself, weighing just 450 grams, is extremely light but very robust. This is made possible by the use of layers of carbon fibre reinforced plastics that are just 0.125 millimetres thick, and which are combined with a foam core or laminate to form a framework structure appropriate to the material.

MASCOT also includes a mechanism that enables movement on the asteroid surface. This encompasses a swing-arm, made out of tungsten, which is accelerated and decelerated by a motor, causing the whole system to swing, so that MASCOT can move by 'jumping' and thus manoeuvre itself into the position required to conduct the experiments. MASCOT's battery has a capacity of 200 Watt-hours, sufficient for 16 hours of operating time. In fact, MASCOT was in operation for over 17 hours collecting data from the asteroid surface. During this time, Ryugu went through about two full asteroid day-and-night cycles.

Landing and 'hopping' on an asteroid

Since the asteroid‘s gravity was not strong enough to 'pull' MASCOT out of the Hayabusa2 probe, it was pushed out of its holding device by means of a spring mechanism behind a push-off plate. MASCOT then free-fell from a height of approximately 51 metres, at the falling speed of a sheet of paper, touching down on Ryugu approximately six minutes later. However, due to the low gravitational pull on the asteroid – Earth has about 60,000 times the amount – MASCOT bounced several times across the surface. The designated landing site MA9 (Alice's Wonderland) was hit exactly and is located at about 300 degrees east and 30 degrees south.

After another 31 minutes and several ground contacts, MASCOT reached its first resting position. It was day on the asteroid when the surface measurements began. At the DLR control centre in Cologne, it was discovered that MASCOT was lying on its back and thus could not carry out its planned experiments. Thus, it was necessary to send an 'uprighting' command to the lander. From Earth, a command was sent unscheduled to Hayabusa2 and from there to MASCOT to activate the swing arm to turn the lander into its intended position for the experiments. The manoeuvre was successful and MASCOT carried out its four experiments on schedule and automatically. The lander made a 'mini-move' to optimise the location of the experiment's sensors. Further scientific investigations took place. MASCOT hopped one more time and entered its 'End of Life' phase. Further scientific investigations could be carried out before contact with MASCOT broke off after a total of 17 hours and 7 minutes due to the onset of a radio shadow and the imminent night.

MASCOT's scientific payload

The MASCAM camera, developed by the DLR Institute of Planetary Research, started capturing images during the descent to Ryugu. After landing, it photographed the surrounding area from the landing site to the horizon in high resolution, and carried out geological and physical measurements of the surrounding environment and the subsoil from the asteroid's surface. The MARA radiometer of the DLR Institute of Planetary Research served to determine the surface temperature as well as the thermal properties of the regolith. The MicrOmega infrared spectrometer, a device from the Institut d‘Astrophysique Spatiale (Paris), investigated the mineralogical composition of the regolith. The MAG magnetometer, developed by the Institute for Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics at the Technical University of Braunschweig, determined the asteroid’s magnetic field.

Once the first measurements were conducted, MASCOT – again driven by the flywheel – changed location and repeated the experiments there. A third landing site was also planned for taking measurements. The data from MASCOT was transmitted to Hayabusa2. The probe was located in an observer position three kilometres above the asteroid. From there, all of MASCOT's measurements and operating data were transmitted to Earth.

The activities carried out from the beginning to the end of the MASCOT operating period were forwarded from the JAXA Control Centre in Sagamihara directly to the DLR Microgravity User Support Center (MUSC) in Cologne. Initial results from the experiments provided pointers for the Japanese mission management and MUSC for the selection of landing sites for future sample taking.

DLR institutes involved in the MASCOT lander

The DLR Institute of Space Systems in Bremen was responsible for developing and testing the lander together with CNES. The DLR Institute of Composite Structures and Adaptive Systems in Braunschweig was responsible for the stable structure of the lander. The DLR Robotics and Mechatronics Center in Oberpfaffenhofen developed the swing arm that allows MASCOT to hop on the asteroid. The DLR Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin contributed the MasCam camera and the MARA radiometer. The asteroid lander is monitored and operated from the MASCOT Control Center in the Microgravity User Support Center (MUSC) at the DLR site in Cologne.

Contact
  • Elke Heinemann
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Pub­lic Af­fairs and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-2867
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249

    Contact
  • Tra-Mi Ho
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Space Sys­tems
    Telephone: +49 421 24420-1171
    Robert-Hooke-Straße 7
    28359 Bremen
    Contact
  • Prof.Dr. Ralf Jaumann
    Freie Uni­ver­sität Berlin
    In­sti­tute of Ge­o­log­i­cal Sci­ences
    Plan­e­tary Sci­ences and Re­mote Sens­ing
    Telephone: +49-172-2355864
    Malteserstr. 74-100
    12249 Berlin
    Contact
  • Ulrich Köhler
    Pub­lic re­la­tions co­or­di­na­tor
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Plan­e­tary Re­search
    Telephone: +49 30 67055-215
    Fax: +49 30 67055-402
    Rutherfordstraße 2
    12489 Berlin
    Contact
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