Japan wants to put robot ball on the moon in 2022 to study the surface

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The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to explore the moon’s surface with a baseball-sized robotic ball by 2022. With the ball, it will take pictures of the moon and collect more information about corrosive moon dust.

The transformable moon robot, as JAXA calls the ball, is being developed by JAXA, the Tomy company, Sony and Doshisha University. Tomy is responsible for the miniature technology, Sony for the controls and the university will process the data from the robot. The robot will be sent to the moon in 2022 with the commercial space agency ispace.

JAXA wants to deploy the robot, which is equipped with a camera and can fold out, on the moon where it can roll around autonomously to collect more information about the regolith, the loose sand-like top layer that lies on the surface of the moon. The robot will collect information about the regolith’s behavior and it will take pictures of the moon’s surface and send it back to Earth via ispace’s lunar lander.

The reason Japan uses a robot ball is that the regolith causes problems with a moon rover because the fabric is corrosive and corrodes material. The substance is also harmful to humans. Before sending an autonomous rover to the moon, Japan wants to use the robot ball to learn more about the moon’s surface and about the regolith. The ball is approximately 80mm in circumference before unfolding and weighs approximately 250 grams. Arriving on the moon, the robot unfolds.

The ball will accompany the company’s first moon journey, ispace, in partnership with JAXA. The company is currently working on a lunar lander, Hakuto-R. The robot is not the first ball-forming robot launched by the Japanese. Japan previously developed Int-Ball, a camera drone that was aboard the ISS in 2017.

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