Now, following the successful deployment of a pair of tiny rovers from Japan's Hayabusa-2 spacecraft, the first color images from an asteroid's surface have been send back to Earth, and boy are they creepy.
Because Ryugu is so small and doesn't have a significant gravitational field, the landing was particularly hard, but this also allows the rovers to hop around the asteroid, taking photos as they go.
The team behind the expedition faced a nervous two-day wait for the Minerva-II rovers to send back information, but on Sunday, they confirmed the rovers landed.
After both rovers separated from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft and landed on the asteroid Ryugu, a statement from JAXA confirmed that both rovers are in good condition and have begun transmitting images and data. It's an incredibly cool image, but it's just the first of what JAXA hopes will be lots of snapshots of asteroid, called Ryugu.
The images show a fast approach as the rovers head towards Ryugu. "I felt awed by what we had achieved in Japan".
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In labs on Earth, scientists will assess the asteroid fragments to understand the processes that allowed planets to form from the swirl of gas and dust that surrounded the primitive sun. "This is just a real charm of deep space exploration", said Takashi Kubota, a spokesman for the space agency, CNN reported.
The 1kg rovers are equipped with wide-angle and stereo cameras, and are powered internal rotors, which propel the robots across the asteroid.
Next month Hayabusa2 will deploy an impactor which will explode above the asteroid, to blast a crater into its surface. Once the crater will be created, the probe plans to collect "fresh" materials that have not yet been exposed to millions of years of wind and radiation. Hayabusa2 will then descend again to collect subsurface samples.
A third rover named MASCOT will also be launched from the Hayabusa2 in early October.
After examining the far distant object and taking samples, Hayabusa2 will depart Ryugu in December 2019 before returning to Earth by the end of 2020 with its cargo of samples. Studying it could shed light on the origin and evolution of Earth and even the solar system.