Japan announced the development of an unusual ball robot to explore the Moon, taking advantage of the collaboration with some technological forces in the country.
La Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) partnered with Sony, Doshisha University, and toy maker Tomy on a transformable ball-shaped robot to study lunar soil. It will anticipate a subsequent mission, which includes a manned rover (this time Toyota), scheduled for 2029.
A very light robot (weighing just 250 grams) will be "delivered" to the Moon in the form of a compact ball. The shape, which will favor the landing, will be transformed once the mission on the surface is started. The result will be a device capable of capturing images of the lunar soil and supporting future missions.
A "ball" full of technology
Contributions to the mission come, as mentioned, from some large technological industries in Japan. Sony (what an experience on ball robots has it. Remember the glowing Rolly?) Provided the control technology for the robot, while Tomy and Doshisha helped to miniaturize the design.
Wait a second: how would you say you've never heard of Rolly? This was it. You will regret wanting to see it.
Work on the ball robot began with a study in 2016, but the effort has mostly solidified with the entry of Sony in 2019 and Doshisha in 2021.
When is the launch scheduled?
JAXA will launch its lander and ball robot in 2022. I don't think we will see many such robots for space exploration, but the idea of a shape-shifting robot will.