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Scientists and students to develop the first Estonian lunar rover

KuupKulgur traveling in the space mission simulation center of Tartu Observatory of the University of Tartu. Credit: Tartu Observatory
KuupKulgur traveling in the space mission simulation center of Tartu Observatory of the University of Tartu. Credit: Tartu Observatory

London, 17 March 2023.- Researchers and students of the Tartu Observatory at the University of Tartu have begun the development of Estonia’s first lunar rover, designed to take Estonian technology to the Moon at the end of this decade or the beginning of the next. 

The first step of the project will be a feasibility study to determine which lunar rover can be built in Estonia and delivered to the surface of the Moon. It will also gauge the interests of Estonian industry and scientists to test their technology on the Moon.

KuupKulgur, inspired by cube satellites, is currently being developed as a student project. The first prototype has already been completed. Estonian companies Crystalspace and LightCode Photonics are involved in the project, and negotiations are ongoing with other Estonian companies to join. These companies develop cameras and light sources, and a depth camera respectively. These devices could become the rover’s navigational instruments on the Moon.

“In the near future, many rovers will be arriving on the Moon for scientific research, and NASA’s Artemis space program has boosted the development of space technology in both the private and public sectors,” says Dr. Mihkel Pajusalu, Associate Professor of Space Technology and Head of the Space Technology Department at Tartu Observatory. “Over the long term, the Moon is a good intermediate step in preparing for space missions to Mars.”

The project team consists of Ph.D. students in Physics at the Tartu Observatory of the University of Tartu Hans Teras and Quazi Saimoon Islam, who have long-term experience with the development of space missions. They will work alongside Ph.D., master’s and bachelor’s level natural sciences and engineering students of the University of Tartu — Silvar Muru, Karin Kruuse, Mathias Plans, Laur Edvard Lindmaa, Aditya Savio Paul. Several Estonian space scientists, such as Mihkel Pajusalu, Viljo Allik, Aire Olesk, and Ayush Jain are supporting the project as experts.

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