The UK’s first moon rover – and the world’s smallest – will blast off into space in 2021, it has been announced.
The pint-sized robotic lander, weighing just 1.5kg, will hitch a ride aboard a NASA-funded mission to the cratered lunar surface.
Equipped with four legs rather than wheels or tracks, the rover will be able to explore parts of the moon other landers cannot reach.
A successful landing will see Britain join the US, Russia and China as the only countries to put a rover on the moon.
The plan was unveiled at the New Scientist Live event in London’s ExCeL by UK-based start-up SpaceBit, which created and designed the robot.
SpaceBit founder Pavlo Tanasyuk said: “Our goal is to go there and see what is available there for all humanity to explore.”
NASA announced in May that Astrobotic was one of the companies awarded funding to build lunar landers.
Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander will carry up to 14 NASA instruments to the moon as well as 14 payloads from other partners, including SpaceBit.
Expected to land in June or July 2021, the rover will drop from beneath the spacecraft.
It will then travel across the surface taking measurements and collecting exploration data that can be analysed for scientific and exploration purposes.
It also has two cameras that will enable it to take “robot selfies”, SpaceBit said.
Mr Tanasyuk said the legs will enable the rover would provide an opportunity for “something a little bit like a human” to explore the surface and negotiate steep, rocky terrain, where wheels would struggle.
It is hoped they will help future rovers to access lava tubes on the moon, which has not been possible before.
The SpaceBit rover can withstand temperatures from up to 130C (266F) to -130C (-202F) at night, and its mission will last for a lunar day, nearly two weeks.
Mr Tanasyuk added: “It will spend up to 10 days on the moon before going into the night and basically freezing forever.”