LUPEX Project Brings India and Japan Together For Lunar Exploration28th Sep 2023
Lunar exploration has become an increasingly prominent endeavour on the international stage. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has taken a significant step forward by partnering with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for the Lunar Polar Exploration (LUPEX) project. This collaborative venture aims to unlock the secrets of the Moon’s south pole.
What’s the LUPEX project?
The main purpose of the LUPEX project is to explore the Moon for water and other resources. Through this project, the agencies hope to gain expertise in exploring the surface of the Moon for future missions. ISRO, the space agency that recently made India land softly on the Moon, will create the lander for this mission. Meanwhile, JAXA will handle the rocket launch and make a rover that will explore the Moon’s surface. To enhance the project’s scientific capabilities, observation instruments from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) will be mounted on the rover.
Many scientists postulate that there might be water near the Moon’s north and south poles. Hence the activity.
“If water can be found in these regions, it could be used as an energy source for future human activities on the Moon. For this reason, countries are aggressively pursuing lunar exploration,” explained INOUE Hiroka, Lunar Polar Exploration Project Team, in the statement.
Autonomous rover for the Moon
JAXA’s Moon rover is currently in the basic design phase. It is slated to autonomously navigate the Moon’s surface to locate areas where water is likely to be present and sample the lunar soil using a drill. The plan involves collecting samples and analyzing them in detail with the rover’s onboard observation equipment.
The rover will be equipped with instruments for measuring the water content of lunar regolith (sand), drilling and sampling capabilities, and other world-first and world-leading technologies for the driving system and batteries.
Fujioka Natsu, who is deeply involved in rover development, emphasized the LUPEX project’s significance in the context of this international trend.
“The LUPEX project will investigate the quantity and quality of water on the Moon. We hope to use this data to consider sustainable human activities on the Moon in the future. In addition, acquiring the technologies needed for rovers and landers to operate in the harsh lunar environment is very important for pursuing space exploration.”
As Fujioka described, the process of designing and testing the rover comes with its fair share of challenges. Simulated lunar sand is spread on the test site to mimic lunar terrain, and the prototype is rigorously tested to ensure it can navigate the challenging lunar surface.
What is the LUPEX project launch date?
The LUPEX project is currently scheduled for launch in 2025 on Japan’s new H3 rocket, according to JAXA.
Firstly, the JAXA team has to pick a special place on the Moon for the rover to land. Right now, the LUPEX team is considering landing on the south part of the Moon. But it’s not easy to find a flat and safe spot with good light and communication.
“Given the possibility that our selection could coincide with that of another country, we are looking to announce our landing site as soon as we find an optimal location,” says INOUE Hiroka.
The potential discovery of water on the Moon holds great promise. Finding out more about water on the Moon can help us live there and even make fuel for space travel. The LUPEX project is a big step in exploring space more, and working with other countries is a big part of it.