Japan Could Put a Human(oid) on the Moon by 2015
A group of engineers in Japan have begun planning a two-legged humanoid robot designed to walk to the surface of the moon. Full Story.
Credit: Astro-Technology SOHLA

A group of engineers in Japan have begun planning a two-legged humanoid robot designed to walk to the surface of the moon, according to Japanese press reports.

"We decided on a human-like robot because it's more fascinating and stimulating for us," said association director Hideo Sugimoto to the Daily Yomiuri newspaper. "We'll make an attractive robot to carry our dreams to the universe."

The engineers are part of a manufacturing cooperative called Astro-Technology SOHLA, which is based in Osaka Prefecture, a local governing unit in the Kansai region on Honshu ? the main island of Japan.

The huge development costs could make it difficult for the group's plans to materialize, but the association is poised to try. They feel the project could boost Japan's manufacturing industry by showing the public that small and mid-size companies can have lofty goals and be competitive, the engineers said.

Japan is known for its advanced robot manufacturing technology, and the association stated that it would be able to use its expertise in dealing with radiation and heat to develop a robot that could function on the lunar surface, reported the Daily Yomiuri.

Last year, Astro-Technology SOHLA successfully built a satellite that they named Maido Ichigo. The Daily Yomiuri reported that the association is tentatively naming the human-like robot Maido-kun, in honor of the satellite.

The robot's estimated cost is approximately 1 billion yen (about $10.6 million U.S.).

The Japanese central government and the Japanese Aerospace Agency (JAXA) are preparing to send a research robot to the moon in 2015, and Astro-Technology SOHLA hopes that their robot design will be able to accompany it on the planned mission.

JAXA had previously considered sending a two-legged robot to the moon, but experts felt that a wheeled robot would encounter less technical issues, and would be more stable to travel on the moon's sandy surface.

Meanwhile, NASA is already planning to send a human-like robot, called Robonaut 2, to the International Space Station aboard the space shuttle Discovery, set to launch in September. The dexterous robot will be the first human-like robot to become a permanent resident at the space station. The robot consists of a head and torso with two arms and two hands, but no legs.