The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to find data on the lunar surface by utilizing a transformable lunar robot. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has teamed up with Sony, Doshisha University, and toymaker TOMY Company on a ball-shaped transforming robot to study the lunar soil ahead of a crewed rover due in 2029. The data collected will aid the design of the studied crewed pressurized rover. Transportation of the robot to the Moon will be conducted by Japan’s ispace, inc. (ispace).

In order to acquire the data, a transformable lunar robot will be transported to the lunar surface by ispace’s lunar lander (to be launched in 2022). While the robot travels on the lunar surface, images of behavior of the regolith, and images of the 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.

The contributions aren’t completely surprising. Sony (which knows a thing about rolling robots) provided the control technology for the robot, while Tomy and Doshisha helped miniaturize the design. The study on the transformable lunar robot has started with a study in 2016, but the effort mainly solidified with Sony’s entrance in 2019 and Doshisha’s in 2021.

“The transformable lunar robot will be an ultra-compact and ultra-lightweight robot that can traverse in the harsh lunar environment by employing the miniaturization technologies of TOMY Company and Doshisha University, the control technologies of Sony, and the developing technologies for handling the space environment of JAXA. The robot has a feature to transform into a running form after arriving at the lunar surface, which contributes to a reduction in volume during transportation to the Moon. Therefore, it is expected to play active roles in future lunar exploration missions as well”, quotes JAXA.

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