• Kyodo


A team of Japanese scientists was among the five winners of a cash prize from a U.S. foundation to fund ongoing development of technologies for an unmanned trip to the moon.

Team Hakuto, led by Tohoku University professor Kazuya Yoshida, was awarded $500,000 for its development of a compact, lightweight rover, as part of a $30 million contest sponsored by Google Inc.

The California-based organizer, XPRIZE Foundation Inc., also awarded a total of $4.75 million to four other teams — Team Indus from India, Part-Time Scientists from Germany and Astrobotic and Moon Express of the United States.

The five teams were among 18 that took part in the event aimed at helping equipment research. The 13 other teams represented a range of different countries, including Brazil, China, Israel, Malaysia and Russia.

The participants are required to land a robot on the moon by the end of 2016 and have it explore for at least 500 meters while transmitting images to Earth, according to the organizer.

Team Hakuto developed a probe measuring roughly 20 by 30 cm and weighing 2 kg, the organizer said.

“The micro-rover design highlights a particular strength in Japanese engineering — the miniaturization of complex machines,” it said.

The organizer offered the money for development of devices in three categories that will help a robot land on the moon, travel smoothly on the surface, and capture high-resolution images. Team Hakuto competed in the second category.

Yoshida was involved in the development of observation equipment mounted on Japan’s Hayabusa2 asteroid probe that was sent into space last month.


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