A giant leap for Switzerland: Zurich made robot set to visit the moon
A robot developed by teams at ETH and the University of Zurich (UZH) could soon be heading to the moon, thanks to its ingenious developers. Their robot, named Glimpse, is taking part in a competition organised by the European Space Agency (ESA) and will be tested in an artificial lunar atmosphere in September to deem whether the robot is suitable for a lunar mission.
Teams from Europe and Canada competing to impress the ESA
The ESA’s competition has several teams from Europe and Canada competing to create the best robots that could be used to construct an uninhabited lunar station, set to become operational in the next decade. More than half a century after the first man landed on the moon, the agency is prioritising robots as a way to build the new lunar station and avoid the costs of having to transport people and resources to and from Earth.
The teams are interested in creating lunar robots that can search for locally-sourced raw materials to assist in the construction and operation of the station.
Top Swiss universities collaborate to create Glimpse
Experts at some of the top Swiss universities have worked to create Glimpse, including scientists Florian Kehl from the UZH Space Hub, lecturers from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU), and Philip Arm, a doctoral student at the ETH Robotic Systems Lab. The ETH and UZH universities, both based in Zurich, have played a large role in the project, but have also been supported by scientists from institutions in Basel and Lucerne.
Florian Kehl and Philip Arm have already received 75.000 euros (76.903,88 Swiss francs) in prize money for entering the final stage of the ESA’s competition. "We invest a large part of our free time, enthusiasm and heart and soul in this project," they said.
Next stop: Mars
Glimpse is entirely Swiss-made, based on a version of the Anymal robot from Anybotics. Its' designers see the machine as a potential way to go one step beyond and explore Mars, once they have mastered operating on the moon. “If mankind really wants to explore Mars, the moon can serve as a way station to extract resources and practise Martian colonisation. The moon also serves as a test site,” Arm explained.
When asked about the cost of development, the creators argued that the price of the innovative robot is a necessary evil. “Switzerland is predestined to become a global leader. So much innovation is created in space travel and Switzerland, as one of the most innovative countries in the world, can only benefit from that,” Kehl added.