Japan aims to send a baseball-sized rover to the moon to examine its surface. The transforming rover is expected to conduct data gathering on the moon's surface.

The Japanese business ispace will send the tiny rover to the moon for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) using the commercial HAKUTO-R lander. According to the space agency, JAXA will use the rover to take photographs of the moon and examine data on lunar dust, which is a corrosive substance that is tough on people and machines.

It looks that JAXA's "transformable lunar robot" will be the second one carried on ispace's inaugural trip. Last month, Science Times reported that ispace would also send a rover from the United Arab Emirates - named Rashid - to the moon. After the then-Soviet Union, the United States, and China, Japan, and the UAE join a tiny club of nations that soft-land spacecraft successfully on the moon if the mission is successful.

JAXA Baseball-Sized Rover
(Photo: JAXA/Tomy Company/Sony/Doshisha University)
Japan's baseball-size rover to be launched for a moon mission.

Will JAXA Send the Lunar Rover to Study the Moon's Surface?

The Japanese robot, which is still in development, has little details known at this time. According to images and data released by JAXA, the design looks to be a 3-inch (80-mm) diameter sphere that opens to roll about on 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 in a statement uploaded on their website.

JAXA said they collaborated with Sony, TOMY Company, and Doshisha University to make the rover. The agency said they would "continue to conduct studies for realizing international space exploration by utilizing the lunar landing opportunities and technologies offered by commercial companies." JAXA added that it would "continue to conduct studies for realizing international space exploration by utilizing the lunar landing opportunities and technologies offered by commercial companies."

In its press announcement on its website, ispace referred to the vehicle as "a small-scale, two-wheeled rover." The corporation will control "communication and operations during the robot's lunar surface investigation from the lander."

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Did The Beyblade Maker Make JAXA's Dream Come True?

Gizmodo said JAXA has been pushing the boundaries of robotics with the help of toymaker Tomy, which also created "Beyblades" and "Transformers."

Sony concluded the signing of the rolling robots project in 2019. The video game publisher designed the control system for the robot. Meanwhile, Doshisha University was invited to participate in the extension this year. The school assisted Tomy in modeling the rover's small size.

Kantaro Tomiyama, the CEO of Tomy, stated in a press release issued by JAXA that the company has always produced high-quality and safe toys. The chairman went on to say that they value a sense of craftsmanship in every toy they make, emphasizing the importance of the details for the children's happiness.

Tomiyama said that the company is hopeful that their participation will make a significant contribution to space exploration and pique the interest of younger audiences in natural science, particularly space.

ispace to Help JAXA Delopy Lunar Cruiser

Space.com said ispace mission telemetry will also aid JAXA's preparations to deploy "Lunar Cruiser," according to the corporation. By 2029, the Lunar Cruiser, a massive pressurized rover for astronauts, could be ready to drive on the moon. Automatic operations and driving technologies are two possible study fields, according to ispace.

During the Hayabusa2 sample-return mission in 2018, JAXA deployed interplanetary roving technology on the asteroid Ryugu. Because the asteroid's low gravity made typical wheeled roving difficult, Space.com said Japan's HIBOU and OWL robots used a "torquer" in their innards that sat on a disk-shaped turntable to hop onto the asteroid's surface.

Japan's lunar robot announcement comes just hours after they revealed two other big space rover projects.

Lockheed Martin and General Motors announced on May 26 that they will collaborate to develop a new astronaut moon buggy for NASA's Artemis lunar-landing program, Space.com said. The program could put people on the moon as early as 2024. On the same day, Canada announced intentions to send a robotic moon rover to the surface by 2026 in collaboration with NASA and financing for additional Canadian lunar projects.

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