Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that it will be sending a transforming robot ball to the Moon in 2022. The space agency said that it will be the size of a baseball with 3 inches (80mm) diameter, before transformation, and will weigh about 0.5lb (250 grams).
According to JAXA's press release, they are sending the transforming robot ball to the Moon to obtain data on the lunar surface which will help in the design for the studied crewed pressurized rover.
The robot is jointly developed by the Japanese space agency, Doshisha University, Sony Group Corporation, and TOMY Company, Ltd. While Japan's ispace, Inc. will be responsible for the transportation of the transforming robot ball to the Moon using the commercial HAKUTO-R lander.
Japan's Transformable Robot Ball
JAXA has released a few details about the Japanese transforming lunar robot, which is still under development. Based on the pictures and the data they released, the transforming robot appears to be a 3-inch (80 mm) diameter sphere that opens to roll around on its two wheels on the lunar surface.
"The transformable lunar robot will be an ultra-compact and ultra-lightweight robot that can traverse in the harsh lunar environment," JAXA said.
They added that its diminutive size and weight contribute to a reduction in volume when transporting it to the Moon, Space.com reported. The robot is expected to play a significant role in the country's future lunar missions as well.
The announcement of Japan's transformable robot ball comes after other two major space rover projects were announced hours before JAXA.
It was reported that Lockheed Martin and GM will team up to build NASA a new astronaut moon buggy for the Artemis mission in 2024. On the same day, May 26, Canada has also announced its plan on putting up a robotic moon rover by 2026 in partnership with NASA.
Japan's ispace Company to Trasport Rovers From Other Countries
Tokyo-based Japanese space company, ispace, will not only be transporting the transforming robot ball of JAXA via HAKUTO-R lander but it was also selected to deliver a rover from Canada to the Moon.
Yahoo! Finance reported that the ispace lander will also deliver UAE's Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC)'s 22-pound rover, called "Rashid" as part of the mission. The rover will be powered by an artificial intelligence flight computer from Mission Control Space Services that will use deep-learning algorithms to recognize the Moon's geology as Rashid traverses the lunar surface.
Moreover, it will carry cameras to capture significant events during the mission for Canada's Canadensys, and collect lunar imagery data for NGC's autonomous navigation system.
Takeshi Hakamada, ispace founder and CEO, said that they are honored to be selected by the three private Canadian companies to carry out their missions on the Moon.
"We see this as a show of the trust that ispace has developed with CSA over the past years, as well as a recognition of ispace's positive position in the North American market," he said according to Yahoo! Finance.
Hakuto-R lander design of ispace was launched in July 2020 and was a product of the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, wherein teams competed to be the first lunar rover to be sent to the moon.
Check out more news and information on Moon Mission on Science Times.