A newly proposed Lunar rover is a cross between a centaur and a robot

Check out this robot centaur-like proposed Lunar rover from Japan.
Christopher McFadden
GITAI's proposed lunar rover looks a bit like robotic centaur.GITAI

In Moon-related news, a Japanese firm has developed a four-legged, centaur-looking, rolling robot designed to traverse the moon's surface. A centaur, in case you are unaware, is an ancient Greek mythological creature with a horse's body and a human being's torso, head, and arms where the horse's head would be. 

The robo-centaur features two claw-like arms, an arachnid-like midsection, and two bulging cameras for eyes, and looks like no other Lunar probe you've ever seen.

Called the R1 robot, it was created and manufactured by GITAI in collaboration with JAXA (Japan's space agency). During a recent test, the robot successfully roved across the uneven terrain on its four wheels at a JAXA facility that mimicked lunar soil. The rover also managed to unpack a succession of pieces with clamp-like hands and assemble the foundation framework for a solar panel.

GITAI has produced a number of robots for diverse purposes, including the R1. According to the company's website, the objective is to get its technology to the real lunar surface by the mid-2020s.

The robot then went through a few more exercises to see how effectively it could navigate rocky terrain, and slopes, and maybe gather a sample of Lunar rocks. Footage of the test, which has been sped up to 15 times normal speed to give it the look of a stop-motion horror film, shows the robot picking up a tiny scoop and a transparent jar with its pincher hands and jerkily harvesting a little quantity of synthetic moon dust.

Pretty impressive. 

The new centaur-like robot is just the latest in proposed and realized robots in space. The International Space Station, for example, features an astronaut companion robot and robotic arms, one of which was developed by Japan. NASA has also deployed a number of robotic rovers on Mars.

None, however, have possessed the R1's somewhat human traits.

GITAI's robot is part of a race to create new ways to do activities in space, such as mining or manufacturing, as China and Russia, as well as the US and its allies, compete to establish a permanent lunar base. Such an outpost might be used for a variety of commercial and scientific objectives. A number of US-based firms are also developing robots, rovers, and lunar landers in preparation for future expeditions.

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