Image: ESA

You’re looking at a half-scale model of the European Space Agency’s appropriately adorable-sounding Mascot-2 asteroid lander. Come 2022, a device like this will give us an unprecedented glimpse into what it’s like on an asteroid.

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The space agency’s plan is for the Mascot-2 microlander to be released from a spacecraft called AIM in six years time. The aim is for the little-cube-that-can to be dropped on to Didymoon—a tiny 600-foot asteroid which orbits the larger 3,000-foot Didymos asteroid.

Mascot-2 will only weigh about 30 pounds, but it’ll be equipped with low-frequency radar, cameras and thermal imaging systems to make sense of its surroundings. Data will be beamed to the AIM mothership, then back to Earth for analysis.

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The team behind the craft has clearly learned from the recent Rosetta mission, which saw the asteroid lander Philae come to an untimely end. If Mascot-2 lands somewhere dark, it will use a sprung “mobility mechanism” to hop to a new location, so that it can use its solar panels to create much-needed electricity.

It’s hoped that the hardware will record data for at least several weeks, if all goes to plan.

[ESA]