Japan recently held a conference on lunar exploration where they outlined a 200B JPY ($2.2B USD) plan to send self-sufficient lunar rovers to the moon in 5 years, and build an unmanned colony by 2020. The technology for a manned mission will be developed in parallel with a budget of about 90B JPY (approx. $1B USD), though given the current state of the economy these budgets are tentative at best. According to the report, autonomous robotic rovers would land on the moon in 2015, sending back high resolution images of the moon’s surface and retrieve seismic data to reveal what lies below the surface. Using solar panels, the rover will be capable of covering long distances for months on end. An energy self-sufficient robot moon base would be built in 2020, where lunar material could be collected to be sent back to Earth. Although the U.S.’s position on a new moon mission have been cut back, Japan seems keen to continue its aggressive push forwards. Perhaps Toyota’s vision of robots on the moon can be realized after all.
[source: Yahoo! News Japan (JP)]