The UK is sending its first moon rover via the company called Spacebit, which announced details about its lunar mission in the middle of 2021. The moon rover is a spider robot that will scuttle across the lunar surface to take photos, videos, and robot selfies.
Spacebit had a contract with American firm Astrobotic to hitch a ride on their Peregrine lunar lander. After the cancellation of Google Lunar XPRIZE, this private company is now attempting to reach the Moon and conduct lunar explorations.
Rather than a wheeled rover used by other countries, Spacebit is planning to use a solar-powered spider robot that measures about 10 centimeters across and weighs one kilogram. Its official name is Asagumo rover that is built using a single-unit CubeSat frame that is commonly used in small satellites.
Spacebit CEO and founder Pavlo Tanasuyuk said that the legs of the rover are designed to be suitable for exploring lava tubes, which are hollowed-out tunnels that extend under the Moon's surface.
Asagumo: The Spider Robot on the Moon
According to Spacebit's CEO Tanasuyuk, he once listened to David Bowie's The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars and wondered to one day build rovers that have legs rather than wheels. It was not until he met with a friend at the Japan Aerospace Agency (JAXA) and told him about his idea that he decided to build a spider robot.
His friend at JAXA told him of the Japanese proverb of asagumo, the morning spider that brings fortune. "That's when it clicked and I decided that we actually should be doing this rover," Tanasyuk said.
Under the company Spacebit, he was able to make his idea into a reality. Asagumo is set to be launched on the third quarter of the year, in July, on board the Peregrine lander that was developed by US-based company Astrobotic. Peregrine lunar lander will be flown on a Vulcan Centaur rocket and will become the first lunar lander of the UK if all goes to plan, according to Science Focus.
The Asagumo rover will be 10 meters away from the lunar lander and beam full high definition video and 3D lidar data back to Earth from its onboard sensors, as seen in its initial demonstration mission.
What Asagumo Hopes to Accomplish
Asagumo is a spider robot that is also a moon rover powered by solar panels with the ability to jump with its four legs. It also has laser sensors, an HD camera to capture images, take a video of the Peregrine lunar lander, and take robot selfies. Tanasuyuk added that Asagumo will be the smallest rover to reach the Moon and the first moon rover with legs, Forbes reported.
Asagumo can operate within one lunar day or equivalent to ten Earth days because temperatures drop too low and it can no longer operate. But Tanasuyuk explains that their company hopes that Asagumo will accomplish its mission in helping in the plans of putting man back on the Moon.
Since exploring the Moon would require them somewhere to live, they are looking at the possibility of sealing the lava tube entrance to use as a shelter. According to Slash Gear's report, Spacebit believes that Asagumo can play a significant role in exploring lava tubes.
Its legs will allow it to go on rugged terrain and explore locations where wheeled rovers cannot go or climb. But Spacebit also said that perhaps in the future, they would design a rover that uses the best of both a wheeled rover and a spider robot.
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