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UK’s first Moon rover set for 2021 landing

The UK will send its first lunar rover, to be built by start-up firm SpaceBit, to the Moon in 2021.

The company is teaming up with US space robotics company Astrobotic to send its rover aboard the Astrobotic lander, which is headed to the Moon in 2021.

Announced at the New Scientist Live event, SpaceBit said it was the smallest lunar rover ever and once the lander reaches the surface it will drop from beneath along with other payloads.

Unusually, the rover will traverse the surface on legs instead of wheels and it is hoped this could pave the way for future rovers to explore tubular caves on the Moon that were created by ancient lava flows.

The rover will scuttle across the surface taking measurements and collecting exploration data that can be analysed for scientific and exploration purposes. It will also have two cameras that will allow it to take 'selfies'.

SpaceBit founder Pavlo Tanasyuk, said: “Our goal is to go there and see what is available there for all humanity to explore.”

He added that, unlike rovers with wheels or tracks, this robot with its four legs would provide an opportunity for “something a little bit like a human” to explore the lunar surface.

Only three other countries have put a rover on the Moon: the US, Russia and China. The fourth will hopefully be the UK.

In January, China became the first country to land a probe on the far side of the Moon for use in low-frequency observation in radio astronomy. The Moon’s other side has far less interference from Earth-based radio signals. 

Astrobotic was awarded millions of dollars to carry up to 14 Nasa instruments to the Moon as well as 14 payloads from other partners.

SpaceBit will be one of those partners, sending the rover to the surface inside Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander.

The rover can withstand temperatures ranging from 130°C to -130°C at night and will explore for the duration of a lunar day.

Tanasyuk added: “It will spend up to 10 days on the Moon before going into the night and basically freezing forever.”

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