We all know how essential Cubesats are for orbital science, and roving counterpart might actually be very useful for surface science, beginning with the moon.
Next year, NASA will launch a small rover to start working on that revolution. The rover will be called Iris, and it is the first one with a new and simple design, called CubeRovers. The orbital predecessors are quite small spacecraft, which are very cheap to build and launch.
NASA, together with Astrobotic and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, is all part of the CubeRover project with wants to set a launch date to 2021. But Iris would fly on an individual and private delivery run, in comparison to the Artemis mission launched by NASA.
According to Raewyn Duvall, deputy program manager for Iris, “For such a tiny rover, Iris has a big mission to lead America back to the moon, and I’m so proud to lead this team of passionate students who are paving the way for future planetary robotic exploration. We’re all excited for Iris’s launch, to drive a rover on the lunar surface, and to see what we can discover!”
If you’re wondering about its size, it is of a shoebox, and it weighs less than 5 lbs. (that’s 2.3 kilograms). It will travel with the help of four wheels.
Should all go alright, the rover will drive about 160 feet – that’s 49 meters – and it should help engineers with finding out the best way to travel the surface of the moon. The travel will get the rover far from its landing site in order to study how the landing site actually alters the surface of the moon. Of course, it will also take pictures regularly, and it will send them home.