Japan sees moonwalking humanoids by 2015

Japanese consortium has promised to send humanoid bots to the moon by 2015 and is developing a bipedal humanoid that could make one giant leap for droidkind.

Just as the Obama administration ditches NASA plans to return to the moon, a group in Japan is vowing to send humanoid robots there by 2015. Call it a giant leap for droidkind.

The Space Oriented Higashiosaka Leading Association (SOHLA), a satellite-manufacturing consortium in the Osaka area, has vowed to put bipedal humanoid bots on the moon in the next five years, according to a Jiji Press report. SOHLA is now developing a prototype astro-bot called "Maido-kun" that it hopes will follow in the steps of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (minus the "Dancing with the Stars" part).

Line in the sand: Japan's SOHLA group seems to want to send robots to the moon to record astronomical observations--and draw pretty pictures. SOHLA

The robot will be smaller than a person and, if it makes it onto the moon, may do things like record astronomical observations and take geological surveys (and maybe do a bit of robot moonwalking).

Development costs for Maido-kun are estimated at $10.6 million, but the idea is being floated in part as an economic stimulus project for small and midsize tech firms in the Osaka region.

SOHLA has already worked with Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). In 2009, it launched the Maido 1 weather observation microsatellite aboard a JAXA HII-A rocket. SOHLA wants its robot to hitch a ride on a JAXA rocket bound for the moon in five years.

"Humanoid robots are glamorous, and they tend to get people fired up," SOHLA board member Noriyuki Yoshida was quoted as saying by Pink Tentacle. "We hope to develop a charming robot to fulfill the dream of going to space."

 

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