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A research team led by Dr. Gustavo Medina Tanco from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) will launch five mirco-robots to the moon this year on-board the Peregrine Lunar Lander.
The project has been carried out by the Space Instrumentation Laboratory (LINX) at the Institute of Nuclear Sciences (ICN), and has support from the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE), the Mexican Space Agency and the state of Hidalgo. This will be the first Mexican mission to the moon.
The COLMENA Project, or “hive” in English, will involve a self-organized swarm of five robots, each weighing less than 60 grams and measuring just 12 centimeters in diameter, each equipped with a small solar panel.
Inside the robots is a single, flexible PCB containing power conditioning, control, communications, monitoring, interface connector, arming and tripping, trip mechanism and grounding and bonding subsystems.
The robots will autonomously navigate themselves to achieve electrical connectivity by joining their panels together to make a larger solar panel. The project will demonstrate how feasible it may be to build structures on planetary surfaces with robot swarms. During the mission, the robots will also take the first-ever lunar plasma temperature, electromagnetic and regolith particle size measurements.
The team will be sending up a Command, Telemetry and Deployment Module, all made within the LINX Lab.
The robots have already been installed on the Peregrine Lunar Lander, created by Astrobotic. The lander will be the first American spacecraft to land on the moon since the Apollo program. It will carry more than 18 payloads. According to an article from UNAM, the lander will be taking off in June.
Peregrine will launch on a United Launch Alliance Vulcan rocket, and travel 384,400 kilometers from the Earth to the moon. The lander will also contain a rover created by Carnegie Mellon University.
The COLMENA project involved participation from around 200 engineering, physics, chemistry and math students.