The world’s smallest robotic moon rover, with legs not wheels, will be part of the first set of payloads to be sent to the astronomical body.
UK-grown start-up space company Spacebit created and designed the robot, which was announced at the New Scientist Live event at the ExCeL centre. Spacebit founder Pavlo Tanasyuk, said: “Our goal is to go there and see what is available there for all humanity to explore.”
He added that, unlike rovers with wheels or tracks, this robot with its four legs would provide an opportunity for “something a little bit like a human” to explore the lunar surface.
Only three other countries have put a rover on the moon: US, Russia and China.
In May Nasa announced that Astrobotic and two other companies had gained funding to build lunar landers.
Astrobotic was awarded millions of dollars to carry up to 14 Nasa instruments to the moon as well as 14 payloads from other partners.
Spacebit will be one of those partners, sending the rover to the surface inside Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander. It will land in June or July 2021. Once the lander reaches the moon the 1.5kg rover will drop from beneath it to the surface with other payloads.
It will scuttle across the surface taking measurements and collecting data that can be analysed for scientific and exploration purposes.
It also has two cameras so it can take “robot selfies” Spacebit said.
In future lunar missions the legs will be used to go into lava tubes, which has not been possible before.
The Spacebit rover can withstand temperatures from up to 130C (266F) to -130C (-202F) at night, and will explore for the duration of a lunar day.