ELO2, a consortium comprised of Australia’s top experts in space research and industry, has showcased a prototype of what could be the country’s first lunar rover.
Established as part of the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars Trailblazer program, the ELO2 is working to send the rover to the Moon as part of a future NASA Artemis mission as early as 2026.
The prototype features unique technology and design elements that will enable the rover to transport lunar regolith (Moon soil) to a NASA-run facility for the extraction of oxygen.
The initial prototype focuses on testing chassis and suspension subsystems. It features an early design of a collection device and special wheels that will enable the rover to cross the Moon’s rough terrain.
Aside from transporting regolith, the rover will autonomously navigate the lunar environment and locate and collect regolith.
The lunar rover is crucial for NASA’s in-situ resource utilisation facility to operate. Oxygen will be extracted from the regolith, which can be used for Artemis astronauts to breathe and for spacecraft fuel.
“Our consortium’s unveiling of the lunar rover prototype is a testament to Australia’s commitment to space exploration. Through the Trailblazer program, ELO2 is spearheading efforts to de-risk critical technologies while striving to deliver a successful and impactful mission for Australia. This unveiling marks the beginning of an exciting journey and invites every Australian to be part of our nation’s cosmic endeavours,” said Joseph Kenrick, ELO2 Technical Director with Lunar Outpost Oceania.
The unveiling of the prototype is part of ELO2’s efforts to actively involve citizens in space explorations by encouraging comments, feedback and ideas to make space more accessible.
The rover’s design process includes a range of initiatives that will involve the Australian public’s participation, such as the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper Challenges, which invite people of all ages to present ideas for one element of the rover – the regolith collection device or scoop, for the chance to win prizes and badges.
Co-led by EPE Trusted to Protect and Lunar Outpost Oceania with 14 partners, the ELO2 consortium involves Australia’s top talents in space research and industry, including BHP, Northrop Grumman Australia, RMIT University’s Space Industry Hub, and the University of Melbourne’s Space Laboratory.
Also among contributors are the Australian National University, Element Robotics, Colorado School of Mines and Saber Astronautics, Titomic, One Giant Leap Australia, Vipac, and CD3D.