Lunar Rover Is No Toy

When you think of Tomy — more properly, Takara Tomy — you think of toys and models from Japan. After all, they have made models and toys as iconic as Transformers, Thomas, Jenga, Boggle, and Furby. They also made figures associated with Thunderbirds and Tron, two favorites in our circles. However, their recent design for SORA-Q is no toy. It is a tiny lunar rover designed at the request of JAXA, the Japanese space agency. The New Yorker recently posted about how this little rover came about.

The SORA-Q looks a bit like a modern Star Wars drone or — if it could fly — a training drone from some of the older movies. The rover caught a lift from a SpaceX Falcon 9 towards the moon with the Hakuto-R M1 lander. Another SORA-Q is scheduled to touch down later this year.

The name isn’t exactly an acronym. The word sora means sky in Japanese and the Q sounds like the Japanese word for sphere. At least, that’s what we hear. Our Japanese is woefully bad. Despite the ball format, the rover doesn’t roll like a BB-8. Instead, it splits in half, exposing cameras. Each half of the sphere becomes a wheel as you can see in the video below (the channel has several videos showing the rover operating). The second video, below, shows an animation of how it will actually deploy.

The toy company knows how to make transforming robots, of course. The company claims that it drew inspiration from the Transformer toys, as well as two other toys from the company’s past inventories. Think toys haven’t already been to space? Apparently, NASA sent up a toy gyro, a wind-up frog, and a Slinky on the Space Shuttle to do school demos.

We wondered where the battery would go in the tiny rover. The answer is: everywhere. But there isn’t much time since the battery will die within two hours. Everyone is getting into the lunar rover act these days. Then there are Mars rovers.

21 thoughts on “Lunar Rover Is No Toy

    1. Seems to be performing pretty poorly on the nice sand already… Regolith is going to stick everywhere on it and gum up the mechanism pretty quickly, but at least they tried something different…

      1. It’s making perfectly reasonable progress on loose ground, and the mechanism will last longer than the batteries will. It’s not supposed to be a multi-billion dollar science platform that’ll run for months, it’s a cheap disposable platform for taking external photos of a lander at a moderate distance for visual diagnostics and social media.

      1. No but can be ‘transmitted’ via radio :) . Listening in could be interesting :) .

        Cute. Maybe have a few thousand roaming around the moon with home bases to recharge like Roomba robots…. If SpaceX can have thousands of satellites in orbit why not zipping around on the moon?

        Cute concept. Who knows what could come of it.

  1. This toy is a sphere. The Moon is a sphere. Let’s send this toy to the Moon! Brilliant! I’d be more worried about vacuum welding of parts than dust. Yes, the dust will eventually destroy any mechanism, but vacuum welding would destroy it before it was even deployed.

  2. Hmmmm…. Could it be sent to the Moon as a ride share? A tiny upper 3rd stage propultion unit would have to be developed. Also a landing propultion unit will need to be developed as well. Possible use of the low energy Luner orbital insertion could be appropriate here. Hay, we can wait 6 months for the little thing to get there. This could be a very low cost way of exploring the Moon.

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