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Japan Planning Robotic Moon Base for 2020! May 28, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Japan, robotic moon base, rover.
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By way of Universe Today and Popular Science, word comes from Japanese tech outlet Node that Japan now has plans for a robotic moon base to be completed by 2020!

The ~$2.2 billion base will feature some pretty hardcore robots—including 660-pound beasts and robots that could potentially range within a 60-mile radius of the base. (For a comparison, the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity are 387 pounds each, making them the largest unmanned. NASA’s manned Lunar Electric Rovers would have been 5,000 pounds with 596-mile total trips, though, so grander vehicles have been planned before).

These aren’t your mother’s rovers, either—these robots could have a degree of decision-making autonomy as they complete their tasks.

The base will be located near the lunar south pole, where plentiful sunlight makes it the prime location for solar power.

2020 sounds pretty ambitious, but if you think about it, the GoogleLunar X PRIZE has companies landing rovers by 2013/2014, so having simply more rovers together building a base isn’t all that extreme for 2020. Especially with 200 billion yen.

Popular Science brings up an interesting potential side benefit of the project:

“Even if Japan falls short of its 2020 deadline, the advances in robotics technology that could fall out of this little project could be as exciting as the moon base itself.”-  Clay Dillow, “Japan Plans a Moon Base by 2020, Built By Robots for Robots“, Popular Science

Much like NASA shifting its plans to drive industry (and the economy) at home, JAXA investing in such a major robotic project could help drive Japan’s robotic industry to new levels.

Regardless, this is an exciting project, and could well prove to be one of the major historical beachheads for colonization and mining efforts :)

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