Lightweight rover will explore dark side of the moon

A 40kg lunar buggy developed by EU-funded researchers could enhance our understanding of the origins of the solar system and make future manned missions to the moon more feasible.

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Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czechia
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


  Infocentre

Published: 25 June 2019  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Information societyTelecommunications
Innovation
Research policyHorizon 2020
SpaceSpace exploration  |  Space hardware
Transport
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Belgium  |  Germany  |  United Kingdom
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Lightweight rover will explore dark side of the moon

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© Mikhail Ulyannikov #59282771, source: stock.adobe.com 2019

A more profound understanding of the moon and the chemical compounds found there could provide clues to the origins of our own planet and the evolution of the solar system, as well as making it easier to establish a base for deeper space exploration. Researchers are working on a lightweight vehicle that will bring this knowledge a step closer.

Small autonomous vehicles known as rovers are a key part of information gathering and analysis of rock samples from the moon, but they are expensive to build and transport. The prototype rover being developed in the EU-funded LUVMI project weighs just 40kg and will operate more efficiently than its predecessors.

The LUVMI vehicle will be equipped with a range of instruments that can detect chemical elements and compounds known as volatiles – substances with low boiling points, including hydrogen and methane – that are known to be present on the moon’s surface.

While traditional rovers dig into the moon’s surface and extract samples for analysis, LUVMI will be able to analyse material beneath the surface without the need for extraction, thereby reducing the risk of contamination and halving the time needed to carry out the research. This advance has been made possible thanks to a miniaturised analysis probe built into the rover.

The vehicle is specifically designed to operate in the moon’s polar areas which remain in permanent shadow. China, Russia, the US and Europe are all planning moon-landing missions within the next decade, according to the project website, and the discovery of water would make future manned missions much more viable.

At the end of 2018, researchers carried out tests on the instruments and the vehicle’s autonomous mobility and navigation abilities along the Dutch coast, on challenging surfaces including rugged terrain and sandy dunes. The project consortium is now working on developing a flight version of LUVMI that will one day fly to the moon. The researchers hope it will be ready by the early 2020s.

An interactive video on the project website allows users to simulate driving the rover, and the team have made available 3D printing instructions for the prototype.

Project details

  • Project acronym: LUVMI
  • Participants: Belgium (Coordinator), Germany, UK
  • Project N°: 727220
  • Total costs: € 1 503 568
  • EU contribution: € 1 503 568
  • Duration: October 2016 to September 2018

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