With this new transformable lunar robot, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) hopes to acquire additional data on the lunar surface. The information obtained will contribute to the Lunar Cruiser’s development, the agency’s pressurized rover announced two years ago.
Set to launch in 2022, the robot will be transported by Japanese company ispace’s lunar lander. Once on the Moon, it will take photos of the regolith and dust and send them to the mission control center via the lunar lander. The transformable have an 80 mm (3 inches) diameter (almost the size of a baseball) and will weigh around 250 g (about half a pound).
According to JAXA, the yet unnamed robot can turn from its ball shape into a running form after landing, contributing to a reduced volume during transportation. It’s still a sphere, but judging from its design, it will use some sort of wheels to move around the rough terrain.
JAXA plans to land its Lunar Cruiser on the Moon by 2029, and the data collected by this small robot ball will help scientists better prepare for the future mission. Until then, we are waiting on GM and Lockheed Martin to roll out their buggy, which already has its lunar landing scheduled for 2024.