Australia’s space program is shooting for the stars with a lunar rover to advance hopes of a human habitat on the moon.
Australians have chosen Roo-ver as the name for the lunar vehicle as the Australian Space Agency sets out to produce an locally made, semi-autonomous rover as part of NASA’s Artemis program later this decade.
NASA scientists will attempt to extract oxygen from the soil Roo-ver recovers on the moon, which could be a giant leap towards a sustainable human presence.
Weighing about 20kg and roughly the size of a check-in suitcase, the rover is likely to land in the moon’s South Pole region and will operate for a fortnight, or about half a moon day.
Two Australian consortiums are working on Roo-ver prototypes that the space agency will choose between for the moon mission vehicle.
Australian Space Agency head Enrico Palermo said the mission will provide the nation with significant expertise and new technical skills which can be brought back to improve industries on Earth.
“Investing in missions like this lifts our whole nation – it makes our economy stronger and industries more advanced, it lifts our standing on the global stage, it keeps our brightest talent here,” he said.
“You cannot underestimate the value of what’s happening before we even get to the moon.”
The space agency will also announce a $1 million funding injection for two Australian space companies, to develop more efficient solar cells to power satellites and innovative propulsion systems for small satellites.
The projects will help address climate change and the transition to a net-zero economy, while driving productivity through innovation, Mr Palermo said.
“Not only do these projects have the potential to support future global space missions, they have applications that can be spun back down to Earth to help us respond to some of our greatest challenges like climate change.”
(Australian Associated Press)