Britain’s moon-walking space spider will lead historic lunar mission
A tiny space spider will carry Britain’s hopes of completing its first rover mission to the Moon this year.
The private company Spacebit has built a 1.5 kilogram rover called Asagumo, a four-legged robot that will be able to “walk” on the lunar surface.
It will be the first of three lunar missions the company hopes to launch this decade, including a “mother rover” with wheels and then a swarm of Asagumo robots that would explore the lunar lava caves.
“The first mission is a test and demonstration of technology,” said Pavlo Tanasyuk, founder of Spacebit. The National.
“The main objective of the first mission is to cover 10 meters, but we hope to cover at least 100 meters.
“Still, even 10 will mean mission successful. The surface phase of the first mission will last one lunar day – 14 Earth days.
The rover relies on a US-built spacecraft called Pilgrimbuilt by the private company Astrobotic, to land safely on the Moon.
The mission will be launched into space on United Launch Alliance‘s Vulcan Centaur rocket.
The launch has already been delayed once in 2021, and it is hoped that it will take place this year, but that will depend on whether the rocket is ready in time.
“There is a chance that our robot will survive the lunar night. In this case, the mission will be extended and the robot will travel a longer distance,” Tanasyuk said.
“That, however, also depends on the ability of Astrobotic’s lander to survive the lunar night.
One step closer to life on the Moon
“In our first Asagumo mission, we will transmit information via the lander. If the lander does not survive, we will not be able to know if our rover survived.
“Unlike the following missions where we will transmit and obtain information via our mother rover.”
The ultimate goal of the Asagumo rover missions is to explore the lunar lava caves formed by volcanic activity billions of years ago.
It is believed that these caves could eventually be used as a human base, sheltering humans from radiation, unstable temperatures and meteoroids.
Lava caves on the Moon are up to 1,000 meters deep and are much larger than those found on Earth, such as caves in Australia and Hawaii.
The Asagumo rover will use its temperature and radiation sensors and multispectral camera to measure charged particles, radiation doses and lunar surface temperatures.
“Thanks to Spacebit, the UK could become the first state to explore the lunar lava tubes and take a really significant step towards humanity living on the lunar surface,” Mr Tanasyuk said.
“Such projects, although carried out by private companies, build the image of the whole nation. And we are extremely proud and happy to be one of the pilots.
“We believe our example will help the UK space sector attract more investment, hire top young professionals and make the UK one of the world’s leading space economies.”
Britain’s booming space sector
Britain’s space sector is gaining momentum after the launch of a new national space strategy last year to position Britain as a leading space nation.
This includes investing an additional £1.4 billion ($1.88 billion) in developing new capabilities, as well as supporting space ventures.
Under the new strategy, the government plans to become the leading provider of small commercial satellite launches in Europe by 2030.
“As we enter an exciting new space age, we have bold ambitions for the UK to be at the forefront of this industry in our role as a scientific superpower,” said George Freeman, UK Science Minister. and innovation, when announcing the strategy. in 2021.
“Whether it’s launching the first satellite from UK soil or leading major international space missions to help tackle climate change.”
It is hoped that small satellites will be launched from a UK spaceport for the first time this year.
They would be carried into orbit from the Sutherland Vertical Launch Site in Scotland, aboard the Prime rocket being built by British start-up Orbex.
Next spaceports in Scotland — in pictures
Updated: February 1, 2022, 12:47 p.m.