These Are the Mexican Robots that Will Be Sent to the Moon in 2021.

Mexico is ready to launch its first mission to the Moon in 2021, by the hand of astrophysicist and science doctor Gustavo Medina Tanco, with whom Sputnik spoke. In his opinion, the country’s advance in the last decade in the space sector is part of a “revolution.

Medina Tanco is Argentine. In his native country, he studied physics at the National University of Tucumán. Later, in Brazil, he obtained his PhD in Science at the University of São Paulo, but has been working for 13 years at the National University of Mexico (UNAM).

A researcher at UNAM’s Institute of Nuclear Sciences, he is in charge of the Laboratory of Space Instrumentation (Linx) and the head behind a particular mission with 50 students: to send mini-robots to the Moon that work autonomously.

Mexico in the space race?

The work in the Institute is multiple: in addition to the development of the Mexican space sector (both from the scientific and engineering point of view), they are dedicated to training human resources and the necessary infrastructure, non-existent until now in the country.

“On the one hand, we work with particle astrophysics as a motivator for the development of infrastructure elements, human resources and know-how; on the other hand, we collaborate internationally in the area of high-energy cosmic rays,” he explained.

At the end of August, the Russian Soyuz 2 rocket was launched with an instrument called a “mini-euse”. It is an ultraviolet camera for the International Space Station, which will allow a systematic observation of the Earth’s atmosphere.

“We are contributing to the development of this instrument that can be used to observe particles as well as other important things, such as ocean pollution or climate change,” said the astrophysicist. “We designed a housekeeping system – the nervous system – that was used for this instrument,” he added.

his office on the university campus is a model of the Euso Super Pressure Ballon (EUSO-SPB), a “telescope for the detection of ultra-high energy cosmic rays” launched from New Zealand in 2017 in collaboration with NASA.

“Participating in international collaboration projects gives you a level of quality to meet, as well as important timelines for consistent development,” Tanco said.

Its most ambitious project at present is the development of the National Space Access Laboratory (Lanae), which will be located in the state of Hidalgo. The aim is to set in motion a system of practical training for students and promotion of small companies dedicated to the space industry.

“Although the Lanae is still not working, for the last two years we have been launching balloons into the stratosphere with scientific instrumentation and technology, based on which we are building a new nano-satellite that we are going to launch into space soon,” he said.

This was possible thanks to a paradigm shift in the space sector, which until a decade ago was reduced to six countries in the world. “Today, with the miniaturization and the entry of private industry, technology and work philosophy have changed, reducing the costs of access to Space in an impressive way,” said Tanco.

According to the astrophysicist, in the last decade space technology has been “democratized” allowing access to emerging countries, opening the participation to academies, companies and even non-governmental organizations.

Mexican robots on the Moon?
The team in charge of the Institute focused on the area of small robots.

“There are two types of robotics: the one we always imagine of the hyper-intelligent robot with personality and our own that do not differentiate between themselves, but work as a team and obey certain rules of their environment that lead them to do complex things,” he said.

“Instead of using a unique and very expensive robot that builds a house, you could make each brick a robot, that they self-organize and build the house on their own,” the UNAM astrophysicist exemplified.

The Mexican micro robots that will travel to the Moon are only eight centimeters in diameter and four centimeters thick. During the interview with Sputnik, Tanco held two life-size prototypes in the palm of his hand. He explained that inside they have an electronic part powered by the solar panels that crown both layers, and that they were built by a company in Silicon Valley, United States.

“Although this mission will fly in 2021, its projection goes far beyond the immediate future and aims to be the first of many that should lead us to develop a microrobotics niche for space applications in Mexico,” Tanco told Sputnik.