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Japan's SLIM Moon Lander Is Carrying a Transforming Ball Robot

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The LEV-2 in the crawling mode, swinging from side to side.

When the two halves of the LEV-2 separate, they can function as legs or wheels to allow the tiny probe to move around.

Credit: JAXA/TOMY Company/Sony/Doishisha University

On September 6, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the Smart Lander for Investigation Moon (SLIM) probe with a small, spherical lunar explorer aboard.

The Lunar Excursion Vehicle 2 (LEV-2), about the size of a tennis ball and with around 2 hours of battery power, will detach from the spacecraft once it reaches the moon.

The two halves of the roboball will separate, serving as legs and wheels so it can image SLIM's landing and the surrounding area.

LEV-2 features two cameras and a stabilizer, and it will use the LEV-1 probe, also attached to SLIM, to transmit data back to Earth.

JAXA's Hirano Daichi said, "We adopted the robust and safe design technology for children's toys, which reduced the number of components used in the vehicle as much as possible and increased its reliability" while also minimizing its size.

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