Britain's Sending a Toy to the Moon

By Gary Cutlack on at

The first entirely UK-developed piece of hardware is scheduled to land on the moon in 2021, with Spacebit's rover set to hitch a ride aboard commercial exploration firm Astrobotic's Peregrine lander and walk about on the lunar surface for a bit.

Yes walk, as Spacebit's probe is a four-legged machine designed to fit within the footprint of the CubeSat format – a cube just 10cm across each side. It'll be a little larger once it lands and folds its legs out, but still. It's a very small thing, and in terms of the science it'll do up there, the key claim seems to be that its legged construction is being tested as a way to explore parts of the lunar surface that traditional trundling rovers can't get to. Surely you could test that in an abandoned Cornish clay quarry for one per cent of the money and have pasties for lunch every day, but what do we know?

Astrobotic's Peregrine lander is taking a bundle of NASA and private equipment to the moon, with a total of 28 small payloads set to deploy when it lands. The lander will sit atop the first of the United Launch Alliance's new Vulcan rockets to go up as well, making the date in 2021 quite an enormous one in the history of commercial space flight. Spacebit's CEO Pavlo Tanasyuk said: "We could not be more excited to fly this mission with Astrobotic. This mission will result in the first payload from the UK to reach the Moon surface and mark the beginning of a new era in commercial space exploration for Britain."

Spacebit's recent past includes the setting up of something it rather unfortunately called "Blockchain for Space," although this real thing, including real money, real plans and an actual piece of physical technology, massively trumps all that and makes it look... proper. [New Scientist]