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Astrobotic takes off for the Google Lunar XPrizeMilestone tests for the Google Lunar XPrize are underway. We join Team Astrobotic in the Mojave Desert for a test of their rocket-powered Masten lander.
[MUSIC] Welcome to the middle of the Mojave Desert, more specifically the. The Mojave Air and Space Port. This is where ten years ago Scaled Composites won the Ansari X PRIZE with its SpaceShipOne, and if all goes according to plan this week this is where Astrobotic, the team from Pittsburgh, is taking its next step. Toward winning the Google lunar x prize. This is a very important historic place for x prize. In 2008 I believe it was Masten Space Systems where we are today was the winner of the north drop Grumen Lunar Landers Challenge which was in fact the same, the very same vehicle you see behind me which is going to be used. By by Astorbotic for this test. We've been preparing for this test for the last four years about. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work. I did the visual navigation, we'll use a camera on board the lander, and it takes pictures. And I take the images. And match them to a map. Each pixel in that map, or each square in the map, corresponds to some value in the real world, so latitude, longitude. I can use the image data, match up to the map, and then figure out where we are in 3D space, using that data. So, we can figure out where the lander is just using a single camera image. And a map. [MUSIC] Now we're standing on the place where the test [UNKNOWN] should end successfully. [UNKNOWN] is gonna take off about 300 meters in that direction, go straight up and then glide in at about a 25 degree angle. As it comes in the lander's gonna be using laser [UNKNOWN]. Enters the point straight down and figure out where the best place for its touch down is. There are three concrete paths behind me. The lander itself will determine itself which of those is the best for it to use. You'll see the sand bags scattered around. Those are basically simulating boulders on a lunar surface. Obviously it doesn't wanna touch down down on. Any of those. He's gonna avoid those, pick the right concrete pad, and touchdown, gently. It, it could be quite difficult. They really haven't done it before commercially. They've done some prior tests to this so they have some pretty good confidence but in general commercial companies don't normally do this. It's the R&D realm. We're landing near the Lacus Mortis pit on the Moon. It's much rougher terrain than where Apollo landed or any of the older Mars landings. We want to guarantee that we're gonna be safe when we touch down. This test is just one component of Astrobotics overall landing development and mission development. The other sorts of things which the team is gonna have to do before it can launch and land on the Moon, is complete the development of the other subsystems of its lander. There's propulsion sub-system, structural sub-system, communications and things like that. So the judging panel is looking at those kinds of things as well. And eventually, [NOISE] astral bot is gonna have to fly live. Despite a series of set backs the Google [INAUDIBLE] Enterprise judges were able to evaluate the Team [UNKNOWN] landing system with [UNKOWN] here in the desert and ultimately we're still waiting to hear exactly whether or not that's enough to win them the milestone prize, but it was a big step forward in the ultimate plan [INAUDIBLE] landing on the Moon. Astrobotics is actually going to fly other teams to the surface of the Moon. So, there's no other team that is actually going to do that for the other teams. so, it's an interesting approach. So their taking other payloads with them as well as their own. Me personally I really like to see myself to use full for pinpoint landings because that's really exciting. I'm Tim Stevens, covering Google Inner Xprise for CNET. [MUSIC]