On 13 October 2021, the Australian Space Agency reached an agreement with NASA for an Australian-made, semi-autonomous rover to be part of a future mission to the Moon.
The mission will demonstrate Australia‘s world leading skills and experience in remote operations and autonomous systems. This draws on our expertise from the resources and mining sectors.
Through our flagship $150 million Moon to Mars initiative, we will support the mission through initiative’s Trailblazer program.
Trailblazer Program and the rover
The Trailblazer Program will include an investment of AU$50 million in Australian businesses and researchers to develop and build the lunar rover.
Controlled from Earth, the rover will collect lunar soil(regolith), which contains oxygen (in the form of oxides). NASA will then aim to extract oxygen from the regolith, using separate equipment that will be sent to the moon with the rover. This is a key step towards establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon, as well supporting future missions to Mars.
Australia’s ability to develop and operate a rover like this is supported by our skills and experience in remote operations and autonomous systems here on Earth.
For example, there are mining operations happening in remote parts of the Pilbara region in Western Australia that are being controlled from Perth.
We can leverage this expertise in robotics technology and systems for remote operation and exploration in space. This is why NASA wants to partner with us on this project to the Moon.
NASA intends to fly the rover to the lunar surface, provided it meets a range of conditions. The expected launch is no earlier than 2026.