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Japanese Start-ups Entering Lunar Development Market; Compact Robot to be Put on Lander to be Launched in U.S.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A test model of a lunar rover developed by ispace, inc.

In recent years, a number of Japanese start-ups have entered the lunar development market.

Dymon Co. has developed Yaoki, an ultracompact robot that can fit in the palm of a person’s hand. Yaoki will be put on a lunar lander to be launched by the end of this year in the United States, and the Tokyo-based company hopes it will be the world’s first private-sector lunar rover.

Yaoki takes its name from the Japanese proverb “nanakorobi yaoki,” meaning “don’t give up, even after failing many times.” It uses hemispherical wheels that allow it to return to its normal position after a tumble.

Yaoki can be remotely operated from the Earth to travel on the moon and transmit data from images taken.

The Tokyo-based company ispace, inc. failed to put a lunar lander on the surface of the moon in its first attempt in April last year, but plans to launch a lander named Resilience as early as December this year.

The lander will carry an unmanned rover and collect lunar sand called “regolith” with an attached shovel.

ispace has also concluded a contract to transfer ownership of the sand to the U.S. National Aeronautics and

Space Administration, aiming to develop a space resource business.

SpaceX, the world’s leading space venture, is likewise aiming for the moon. The U.S. company has enhanced its technological capabilities and competitiveness with the support of NASA, and is in charge of developing a manned spacecraft for use in the Artemis lunar exploration program. SpaceX has become an integral part of the U.S. space strategy.

Japan, too, has begun to take serious steps toward creating a SpaceX-like entity. The government established the space strategy fund last year and plans to provide over ¥1 trillion in funding over the next 10 years to space ventures, universities and other entities to support technology development and commercialization.