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Astrobotic, CMU build lunar lander in X Prize bid

As part of the Google Lunar X Prize competition, a Carnegie Mellon University team plans to send a robot to investigate the Apollo 11 landing site.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
Carnegie Mellon University

As part of a bid to claim the Google Lunar X Prize, Carnegie Mellon University and Astrobotic Technology have completed structural assembly work on a lunar lander designed to deliver a roving robot to the surface of the moon in 2014.

Taking off from Cape Canaveral, the lander will ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which had a successful maiden flight last year, on its four-day journey to the moon.

Red Rover will explore the Apollo 11 landing site. Astrobotic

The craft will attempt a pinpoint landing, which would be a significant achievement. After deploying, the solar-powered, four-wheeled Red Rover will beam HD video in 3D to Earth as it explores the moon's Sea of Tranquility.

The Astrobotic-CMU team wants to reach the Apollo 11 landing site, which hasn't been seen directly in 40 years (though NASA has imaged it), and film it in HD.

The $30 million Lunar X Prize is aimed at fostering the first private launch that sends a robot to the moon. It has to travel some 500 yards and send video, images, and data to Earth.

The 5-foot-tall, half-ton aluminum lander has solar panels that can provide 500 watts of power, rechargeable batteries, eight thrusters, and four fuel tanks carrying almost 2 tons of propellant.

It will be able to carry the 173-pound Red Rover, which is mostly covered with solar panels under its camera mast, as well as 242 pounds of commercial payload.

The lander is set to be tested for structural integrity at a Boeing facility in El Segundo, Calif. Check out some pics of the assembly here.

Below is a video showing what Red Rover might look like as it negotiates the lunar terrain during its two weeks on the moon. What will it find at Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's old hangout?