The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is planning to send a transformable baseball-sized lunar robot to the Moon some time next year to collect data on lunar dust. It is expected that the data collected will aid the design for the studied crewed pressurized rover.
The transformable lunar robot is being jointly developed by JAXA, TOMY Company, Ltd. (Tomy Company), Sony Group Corporation (Sony), and Doshisha University. The rover will be delivered to the lunar surface by the Japanese lunar exploration company ispace, using its commercial HAKUTO-R lander in 2022.
The transformation lunar robot will be an ultra-compact and ultra-lightweight robot that can transverse in the harsh lunar environment. a mere 80 mm (3 inches) in diameter. After arriving at the lunar surface, the 250-gram robot can transform itself to drive across the surface instead of roll. It will be packed with scientific equipment with the aid of several industry-heavy hitters. Sony will be developing imaging technologies for the transformer, while the Japanese toymaker Tomy will aid in miniaturizing technologies to make sure everything fits.
According to JAXA, while the robot travels on the lunar surface, images of the behavior of the regolith and the images of the lunar surface taken by the robot and the camera of the lunar lander will be sent to the mission control center through the lunar lander.
The robot will be in its ball configuration while being transported to the Moon. The acquired data will be used for the evaluation of the localization algorithm and the impact of the regolith on the driving performance of the crewed pressurized rover.
Also, the robot is expected to play active roles in future lunar exploration missions as well. JAXA will continue to conduct studies for realizing international space exploration by utilizing the lunar landing opportunities and technologies offered by commercial companies.