A Japanese toymaker built a tiny lunar rover that explores the Moon's surface
Japanese toymaker Takara Tomy developed a mini lunar rover robot that will launch to the Moon, a Reuters report reveals.
The robot, called 'Sora-Q,' was developed by Takara Tomy in partnership with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and it will be sent to take pictures of the lunar surface before transmitting them back to Earth.
Sora-Q won't be as advanced as lunar rovers, including NASA's VIPER and China's operational Yutu-2 rover, as it will weigh a paltry 9 ounces (255 g).
The robot is made from a special type of aluminum and plastic that was specially designed to withstand the harsh temperatures on the Moon that swing from between -274F and 230F.
Sora-Q will travel aboard JAXA's Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (Slim), which is currently scheduled for launch in 2023.
Sora-Q joins a prestigious list of space toys
The toymaker Takara Tomy said in its statement that its experience building children's toys helped it to devise a small machine that could efficiently crawl along the lunar surface.
"We started this thinking that our technology to make toys that can be utilized for space exploration," said Kenta Hashiba, a developer on the Sora-Q project for Takara Tomy. "Now that this lunar robot is going to space, we hope more people, especially children, can feel closer and will develop an interest in space."
Surprisingly, there is a long history of toys going up to space: A dinosaur plush famously rode alongside astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley for SpaceX's first crewed mission, Demo-2, and a Baby Yoda toy rode with the SpaceX Crew-1 mission. Other examples include a velcro chess set, a Buzz Lightyear toy, and a microgravity yo-yo aboard the ISS. Sora-Q, though, is the first machine developed by a toymaker that will serve an operational purpose in space other than helping astronauts kill time.