The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to obtain data on the lunar surface , the regolith, via a small shape-changing robot. The data collected, it says, will aid the design for a subsequent crewed rover.
The robot technology is being jointly developed by JAXA, Tomy Company (a toy company), Sony and Doshisha University. Transportation of the robot to the Moon will be conducted by Japan’s ispace, inc. (ispace).
The lunar surface, where the crewed pressurized rover will travel, is a unique environment; the gravity is one-sixth of that on Earth and the surface is covered by regolith, sand on the Moon. As a result of the system conceptual study for the crewed pressurized rover that began in 2019, it was found that data acquisition on the lunar surface is needed for the detailed study of autonomous driving technology and cruising technology to be utilized by the crewed pressurized rover.
In order to acquire this data, a transformable lunar robot will be transported to the lunar surface by ispace’s lunar lander. While the robot travels on the lunar surface, images on behavior of the regolith, and images of lunar surface taken by the robot and the camera on the lunar lander will be sent to the mission control center via the lunar lander.
Measuring approximately 80mm in diameter, and weighing 250g, the robot is expected to be launched in 2022.
Tamai Hisashi, Senior VP, Fundamental Technology Research and Development, at Sony’s R&D Center commented:
“Sony has developed a control system utilizing SPRESENSE, a compact and power-saving smart sensing processor board for IoT. We are honored to be able to contribute to realizing the lunar exploration mission by applying the control system for the transformable lunar robot. These days, the term ‘New Space’ has become commonly known and the use of consumer products in space is being considered, we will continue to contribute to this field by applying the accumulated technologies and exploring new technologies.”
Image: Jaxa, TOMY Compnay, Sony, Doshisha University