Japan's space agency says its Hayabusa2 probe will deploy the first 2 of 4 robot vehicles it is carrying on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu this month.
The spacecraft, which is designed to land on Ryugu in its final mission, has been observing the asteroid since nearing it in late June.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, says the probe will first deploy the 2 small, round MINERVA-II-1 rovers on September 21st. They are to take pictures of the asteroid's surface and collect other information.
The rovers, jointly developed with the University of Aizu and others, are 17 centimeters in diameter and 7 centimeters high.
They have no wheels but can jump around to take pictures of rocks on the asteroid.
JAXA also plans to release a lander developed by Germany and France on October 3rd, to survey a magnetic field of Ryugu. The date for deploying the last rover, jointly developed by Japanese universities, has not been decided.
Mission manager Makoto Yoshikawa says data to be collected by the small rovers will provide important information for landing Hayabusa2. He says he's looking forward to examining pictures taken by the first 2 rovers.