Israeli Startup WeSpace Aims to Launch Robotic 'Moon Hopper' by 2026
Israeli startup WeSpace Technologies is on a mission to make its mark on the moon with the development of autonomous lunar hopper drones. These innovative spacecraft aim to transport customer payloads to previously inaccessible areas of the lunar surface. WeSpace, founded in 2019 by CEO Yifat Feffer and CTO Yigal Harel, both of whom have extensive experience in lunar exploration, envisions a highly capable robotic vehicle that can maneuver across the moon using thrusters and explore not only the surface but also potentially the underground regions.
WeSpace's founders bring valuable expertise to the table, with Harel having previously led the groundbreaking Beresheet lunar lander program for the Israeli organization SpaceIL. Although the Beresheet lander unfortunately crashed during its landing attempt in April 2019, the experience gained from the project fueled the vision behind WeSpace's more ambitious lunar vehicle.
In contrast to traditional lunar exploration methods, primarily relying on rovers, WeSpace sees the hopper as a game-changer for the development of a thriving lunar economy. The company's website highlights the spacecraft's advantages over existing vehicles, including its capability to explore the moon's underground lava tubes and operate autonomously in permanently shadowed regions, known as "dark" zones, which are believed to contain valuable water ice resources.
According to the WeSpace website, their Autonomously Flying Robotic Systems will conduct a variety of lunar missions, providing valuable information about in-situ resources such as water, metals, and minerals. Equipped with scientific and engineering sensors, the drones will search for potential habitation sites and gather essential data to meet the specific needs of their customers, particularly in hard-to-reach areas that have remained unexplored thus far.
NASA, the United States' space agency, has plans to send humans back to the moon as part of the Artemis 3 mission, set for 2025. Beyond this mission, NASA aims to establish a permanent lunar outpost near the moon's south pole, serving as a base for future missions to Mars. The success of establishing a sustainable presence on the moon or Mars relies on in situ resource utilization (ISRU), the ability to harness locally available resources to supplement supplies from Earth.
WeSpace has set its sights on joining NASA's Artemis program, representing Israel in this ambitious endeavor. After consulting with project managers at NASA, WeSpace is confident that their lunar hopper design aligns well with the program's mobility requirements. According to a report from PayloadSpace.com, the company anticipates launching its drone on its inaugural lunar mission within the next three years.
The capabilities of WeSpace's lunar hopper hold immense potential for the Artemis program, NASA scientists, research institutions, and commercial entities interested in moon mining and lunar exploration. The company envisions a future where a thriving lunar economy drives advancements in various sectors, transforming the moon into a hub for scientific research, resource extraction, and space tourism.
As WeSpace prepares to take humanity one step closer to a sustainable lunar presence, the world eagerly anticipates the successful launch and deployment of their robotic moon hopper. With its groundbreaking capabilities and potential to revolutionize lunar exploration, WeSpace's initiative serves as a testament to the ingenuity and determination of the next generation of space pioneers.