Japan will put a transformable robot on the Moon in 2022

A small transformable robot will be placed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on the Moon during 2022, preparing the necessary conditions for the landing of a manned rover in 2029

The actions mark the progress of the Japanese plan to make its mark on space: plan to carry out permanent manned missions both on our satellite and on Mars.

Japan seems determined not to be left behind in the incipient "space race" of the 21st century, starring the United States and China but also presenting efforts and projects in development from Russia, Europe, Canada and the United Arab Emirates, among other countries or groups of nations: for this it has developed a lunar lander and is working on a rover.

Previously, the Japanese space agency has commissioned a well-known toy brand to develop a small transformable robot together with other companies and universities, to test the dust conditions on the Moon. It is a tiny ball-shaped device, weighing only 250 grams.

According to a press release , the lunar artifact measures only 80 millimeters in diameter prior to its transformation. It will be used mainly to study the conditions of the regolith or "lunar sand": it is a layer of unconsolidated materials that rest on solid rock and characterizes the surface of the Moon.



VITAL DATA

The analysis of these aspects is crucial to fine-tune the autonomous driving technology that will be used by the pressurized rover with crew , which Japan will take to the moon in 2029. The transformable robot destined to collect this data will be carried by a lunar lander, which will also have a camera to take images of the surface of the Moon.

The data obtained will make it possible to analyze the performance of the location algorithm that the future manned rover will use, as well as the impact of the "lunar sand" on its development on the surface of the terrestrial satellite. However, this would only be the beginning of a much more ambitious plan.

Japan thinks of pressurized manned rovers as a transcendental element in support of human lunar exploration, which according to the eastern country's space agency will reach its peak in the 2030s.

In these, it will seek to take into account conditions such as lunar gravity (which is one sixth of that existing on Earth), the rugged and complex geography of the satellite or aspects such as radiation and temperature on the Moon. The goal is to set the stage for permanent manned missions to be more efficient from every point of view.

But the Moon will not be the only destination of the Japanese space "conquest": it also plans to later carry out permanent manned missions to Mars , the red planet today "dominated" by the United States and China. His ambition is not new, since in 1998 he had launched a first observation probe to Mars, a 535 kg artifact called Nozomi (Hope).

Crucial to achieving these missions is the development of truly efficient rovers. To do this, JAXA has joined forces with the Toyota company to create a new lunar mobility technology, which would later be adapted to the characteristics of Mars .

Cover photo: lunar lander designed by the Japanese space agency. Credit: ispace, inc.

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