Japan’s space agency (JAXA) plans to send a miniature, ultra-lightweight spherical robot to the moon that will be able to change its shape. It will collect the data necessary to build a manned rover, and a well-known toy company is involved in its preparation.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is building a compact robot that will look a bit like a toy.

It’s no surprise, then, that Tomy – a company known for children’s toys – as well as specialists from Agnasia, Doshisha University and Sony are involved.

The robot will collect data on the lunar environment needed for a more serious mission – building a manned spacecraft for future astronauts.

There will be a particular need to develop the technology of automatic driving on the regolith-covered surface, with gravity equal to 1/6 of the earth.

The robot will traverse the surface of the moon, incl. It will record the behavior of the loose regolith. To navigate difficult terrain, you will use technology developed by experts from Doshisha University and the company Tomy.

After landing, it will transform from a ball into a slightly larger oval which allows it to move around the area. This solution will save space in the probe.

Meanwhile, the launch of the robotic lander is scheduled for 2022, and work on the device has been in progress since 2016.

“I am happy that the robot miniaturization technology developed by Professor Watanabe will contribute to the lunar exploration mission. I hope that students with creative ideas will be able to approach similar and challenging research and its results in the future,” said Kazuto Tanaka of Doshisha University.

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“I was involved in the development of a lunar shape-shifting robot at the JAXA Space Exploration Innovation Hub when I was working for TOMY Company, Ltd. I am still working on the joint lunar exploration mission. I hope this will make young people interested in new science and technologies”- adds the professor. Kimitaka Watanabe.

More information at: https://global.jaxa.jp/press/2021/05/20210527-1_e.html (PAP)

Author: Marek Mataks

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