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.