According to a press release, the four-legged explorer robot GLIMPSE (Geological Lunar In-Situ Mapper and Prospector for Surface Exploration) has reached the first round of an international competition. The European Space Agency and the European Space Resources Innovation Center had invited 13 research teams from Europe and Canada to take part. Five teams were able to make it into the finals, including the Swiss team. It has been awarded 75,000 euro for this.
The University of Zurich’s Space Hub and the Robotic Systems Lab of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich each contributed equally to this project, but researchers and engineers at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, the University of Basel, and the companies Maxon, Anybotics, and Metrohm were also involved. The robot dog GLIMPSE was developed based on the Anymal robot type from the ETH spin-off Anybotics. According to the information provided, it is equipped with various devices for petrographic and chemical rock analysis, including a Raman spectrometer, a microscope, and a camera with a zoom lens for both overview and close-up photos.
Not all of the 13 competing explorer robots were able to traverse the unfamiliar lunar landscape to reach the target crater within two and a half hours. The artificial lunar landscape was created specifically for the competition in a hangar in the Netherlands. Furthermore, the teams were working with an artificial signal delay as can be expected in a real moon exploration. Florian Kehl of the UZH Space Hub comments: “Robots with mature autonomous control technology had an advantage under these circumstances.”
The team is now working to optimize its robots for the finals, which will be held in Luxembourg in the fall. The winners stand to gain 550,000 euro, which could be used to bring GLIMPSE to maturity. The long-term goal is for it to be used on the far side of the moon, otherwise known as the lunar south pole.