If an Osaka-based business group known as known as the Space Oriented Higashiosaka Leading Association (SOHLA) has its way, there will be a humanoid robot on the moon by the year 2015.
Maido-kun is a wheeled humanoid and the newest in a long line of metallic wonders coming from a nation enamored with robots. This one is designed to function in the harsh lunar environment where it is thought that wheels may prove more practical than legs.
“Humanoid robots are glamorous, and they tend to get people fired up. We hope to develop a charming robot to fulfill the dream of going to space,” said SOHLA board member Noriyuki Yoshida.
Since 2005, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has had plans to send robots to the moon with the target date somewhere in 2015, but they were at first concentrating on robots with two legs. Wheels began to seem more feasible for navigating along the lunar landscape.
SOHLA hopes their Maido-kun humanoid will be able to go along on JAXa’s planned lunar expedition and admits there are still obstacles to overcome, most notable of which are the developmental costs, which are estimated at 1 billion yen, (US $10.5 million)
SOHLA is convinced that this up-and-coming expedition could stimulate the local economy by involving small and medium sized manufacturers in the development of space technology.
Are they right?
Only wheeled robots traipsing along the surface of the moon will tell.