In a significant development in the realm of lunar exploration, months after India’s successful lunar landing near the south pole, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) collaboration is making rapid progress on their next moon mission. Recent updates indicate that JAXA has concluded a series of tests for the rover that will navigate the lunar surface, marking a crucial step in this international cooperative venture.
Yuji Katsumata, representing the Lunar Polar Exploration Mission (LUPEX) at JAXA, announced that tests assessing the mobility of the rover are proceeding as planned. JAXA has established dedicated facilities replicating lunar terrain, featuring a dark room, sandy surfaces with rocks, and lunar lighting. These environments facilitate comprehensive testing of the rover’s mobility and navigation capabilities.
Katsumata provided insights into the prototype rover developed by JAXA for LUPEX’s mobility system. The rover boasts large wheels or crawlers designed to provide a secure grip on the ground, enabling it to traverse challenging terrain with heightened reliability. Notably, the rover incorporates an independent driving and steering system, allowing each crawler to operate autonomously. This feature empowers the rover to execute diverse maneuvers, including rotating in place.
LUPEX represents JAXA’s pioneering mission, intending to dispatch a rover of substantial size to explore the lunar surface and investigate subsurface water. The collaboration designates ISRO as the entity responsible for the lander that will transport the rover. Furthermore, the rover will integrate observation instruments from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA), enhancing its scientific capabilities.
The rover will house the Resource Investigation Water Analyser (REIWA), a technology developed by JAXA. REIWA incorporates ISRO’s Sample Analysis Package, equipped to discern the mineral composition of surface samples collected from rocks. This collaborative effort signifies the integration of advanced technological capabilities from both ISRO and JAXA.
Acknowledging ISRO’s advanced technological prowess in operating lunar orbiters, developing lunar landers, and creating rovers, JAXA highlighted the collaborative endeavor’s ambition to build a larger lunar rover than ISRO has previously developed. The collaboration aims to make a global impact by combining ISRO’s expertise with JAXA’s rovers and measurement/analysis technologies.