Japan plans to deploy a baseball-sized rover to explore the moon’s surface in 2022.
Japanese company ispace will deliver the small rover to the moon for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) using the HAKUTO-R commercial lander. JAXA will use the rover to take pictures of the moon and collect data on moon dust – a corrosive substance known to be harsh on people and machines, the space agency said.
It looks like JAXA’s “transformable lunar robot” will be the second to be chased in the first ispace mission, as the company announced last month that it will also deploy a rover from the United Arab Emirates, called Rashid. If the mission is successful, Japan and the United Arab Emirates will join the small club of nations to pull off a soft-land spaceship on the moon, following the then-Soviet Union, the United States and China.
Lunar chronology: Humanity’s exploration of the moon
There are few details available now on the Japanese robot, which is still in development. The design, according to images and data provided in a JAXA press release, appears to be a 3-inch (80mm) diameter sphere that opens to roll over the lunar surface on two wheels.
“The transformable lunar robot will be an ultra-compact, ultralight robot that can traverse in the harsh lunar environment,” JAXA said. The robot’s small size and small mass of 250 grams, JAXA added, “contributes to a reduction in volume during transport to the moon. Therefore, it should also play an active role in future lunar exploration missions. “
The robot includes contributions from partners Sony, TOMY Company and Doshisha University, JAXA noted, adding that the agency “will continue to conduct studies to achieve international space exploration using lunar landing opportunities and technologies offered by commercial companies ”.
Ispace representatives described the vehicle “a small two-wheeled rover” in its own press release. The company also said it would oversee “communication and operations while exploring the robot’s lunar surface” from the lander.
Ispace mission telemetry will also aid JAXA’s plans to deploy “Lunar Cruiser”, the company said. Lunar Cruiser is a huge pressurized rover for astronauts that could be ready for lunar driving by 2029. Possible areas of research include automatic operations and driving technology, ispace said.
JAXA previously used interplanetary wicking technology on asteroid Ryugu in 2018 during the Hayabusa2 sample return mission. Since the asteroid’s low gravity makes traditional movement on wheels difficult, the Japanese OWL and OWL robots hopped onto the asteroid’s surface instead using a “torquer” in their interiors, which sat on it. a disc-shaped turntable.
The announcement of Japan’s lunar robot follows two other major space rover projects made public hours earlier.
Lockheed Martin and GM announced Wednesday, May 26 that they will team up to build a new astronaut buggy for NASA’s Artemis moon landing program, which could put people on the moon as early as 2024. On the same day, the Canada has announced plans to bring a lunar robot to the surface by 2026, in partnership with NASA, among other funding for Canadian lunar projects.
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