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Carnegie Mellon, Astrobotic complete assembly phase in chase for Google's Lunar X-Prize

Carnegie Mellon, Astrobotic complete assembly phase in chase for Google's Lunar X-Prize

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Carnegie Mellon and Astrobotic Technology said they have completed the structural assembly of the lunar landing craft that aims to be the first private sector robot to the moon in 2014.

Carnegie Mellon and Astrobotic Technology said they have completed the structural assembly of the lunar landing craft that aims to be the first private sector robot to the moon in 2014.

That four-wheeled robot, the Red Rover, will broadcast HD video from the moon. The robot will explore for two weeks.

The half-ton structure will now make its way to Boeing facilities for "shake testing" to check its integrity and fit with the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Astrobotic's plan is to land the spacecraft, which will have the robot and commercial payload, on the Moon's Sea of Tranquility or Marius Hills and start broadcasting. Astrobotic has a monetary motivation---the company is looking to claim up to $36 million from Google's Lunar X-Prize, a NASA contract and Florida launch bonus. Google's Lunar X-Prize is aimed to send the first privately funded robot to the moon, travel 500 meters and transmit video, images and data back to Earth.

Carnegie Mellon and Astrobotic are among 29 teams competing for Google's Lunar X-Prize.

William "Red" Whittaker, CEO of Astrobotic and a Carnegie Mellon professor, said he hopes to re-use the design for a series of missions and make the company a viable enterprise.

Among the key points:

  • The craft's deck will support four fuel tanks with nearly 2 tons of propellant.
  • A cone structure on the deck will connect to the Red Rover.
  • The lander can carry 242 pounds of commercial payload and have rechargeable batteries and solar panels.
  • SpaceX's Falcon 9 will give the Astrobotic craft a lift for a four-day trip to the moon.
  • The navigation software comes via Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute.

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure