Japanese Consortium: We'll Send a Humanoid Robot to Walk on the Moon

By Andrew Moseman | May 4, 2010 2:13 pm

SohlaRobot steps are what you take, walking on the moon.

A group of Japanese satellite makers called the Space Oriented Higashiosaka Leading Association (SOHLA) says that it will spend more than $10 million to put a humanoid, bipedal robot on the moon by 2015. Maido-kun would hitchhike on board a moon mission by the Japanese space agency JAXA that year and plant the country’s flag on our planet’s natural satellite. And maybe it will walk around—if it can keep from falling over:

Designing a robot that can balance and move on two legs will be a major challenge, says Roger La-Brooy of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. “Human beings are relatively unstable, and when designing robots for unpredictable terrain, three legs are better than two.” If the robot were to fall over, it could have trouble getting up again, says Rodney Brooks, a roboticist at MIT [New Scientist].

Because of those problems, JAXA actually gave up its own plans for a walking robot in favor of one that would roll on wheels. And the Maido-kun doesn’t appear to have much in the way of pure scientific value. But for the members of SOHLA, what matters is the imprint on the public imagination as Japan aims to put a human on the moon and build a base there by 2030:

“Humanoid robots are glamorous, and they tend to get people fired up,” SOHLA board member Noriyuki Yoshida was quoted as saying by Pink Tentacle. “We hope to develop a charming robot to fulfill the dream of going to space” [CNET].

If nothing else, the Maido-kun mission means another robot that looks disturbingly like us will be going to space. A few weeks ago we reported that NASA plans to send “Robonaut 2,” a robot with a humanoid upper body, to the International Space Station. NASA’s bot won’t walk on two legs, but, to be honest, I’d be more fired up if it did.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: The First Robot That Walks Like a Human: Lazily
DISCOVER: One Giant Step for a Small, Crowded Country
80beats: A New Crew Member for the Space Station: “Robonaut 2″
80beats: Robonaut 2: Coming to Space Stations and Assembly Lines Near You

Image: SOHLA

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space, Technology
MORE ABOUT: japan, JAXA, moon, robots
  • Cap’n Solo

    Tell C3PO to look for the rover while he’s up there.

  • GuruOfChem

    Man, I hope its legs don’t break,
    Walking on the Moon…

  • GuruOfChem

    Steps Obama just won’t take,
    Walking on the Moon…

  • jumblepudding

    The Japanese seem to get excited about humanoid robots outside the realm of all practicality.

  • Peepors

    I’m wondering why no one else has put a mission into action by having real humans go to the Moon. Instead people planing on sending a robot by 2015. It’s been decades since we’ve been to the Moon, but people want to send a problematic robot there??? Maybe this is perhaps because none of us have actually been to the Moon and back.

  • Stag

    @Peepors
    It’s much safer to send a robot to the moon, and you can give it a suite full of sensors and manipulative appendages if it is humanoid. With a robot, you dont have to use life support in the ship that goes to the moon, saving a huge amount of mass and energy for the shuttle: no oxygen, no pressurization, no heat besides what is neccesary to keep electronics from freezing, minimal radiation shielding, etc. Once it is on the moon, it can move around and do more than a human encased in a suit could. I agree that the humanoid part is a bit more than needed, but in any case, a robot is a good idea.

  • CC

    I find this humorous. They are going to plant a flag, for what? Claim the moon? As if the US flag there gives us the rights to the moon? What a waste of money, just to plant a flag on something you can’t claim. And hell, at least the US sent humans to “claim” it. The next major war will start when Japan, China, and Russia refuse to share “their” moon. Like Russia planting a flag in the Artic (or where ever it was)…I could think of a million things Japan could use this money on.

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