Saturday, March 31, 2012

The names of moon rovers

Red Rover, Euroluna, JURBAN, Odyssey Moon, Synergy Moon, Italia, Puli Space and White Land Space are just a few names for moon rovers. In fact, they represent ambitious projects of designing and building rovers to compete in the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLPX), also called Moon 2.0 [1-4]. To win, a participating team has to get its moonbot to the lunar surface by 2015 and guide it around. Sponsored by Google and organized by the X Prize Foundation, you will not be surprised that successful moon missions have to send images and other data back to Earth: from moonbot to Googlebot. Teams are from Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Malaysia, the Netherlands, India, Israel, Italy, Russia, Spain and the United States of America.

 Not only is there a diverse mix of competitors, but also a diversity in design and technology. The Hungarian Puli Space rover with its dreadlocks, for example, looks like a sea urchin. The approximate radial symmetry will allow the Puli Space rover to conquer moon territory by rolling around via its flexible spines [5]. Another interesting approach is the swarm-bot design of  JURBAN with its individually moving parts that can line up and form a robotic earthworm [6]—better call it moonworm! The Jurban team, comprised of high school to doctoral students, designed redundancies in each of the semi-autonomous segments, such that, if one part fails, the swarm or centipede-like moonworm can split up, rearrange and still operate.

What a change from the 1960s and 1970s when only Soviet and US space invaders were competing cold-war style. Back then, the Soviet remote-controlled lunar rover named Lunokhods was the only robot that survived the temperature extremes on the moon, where surface temperatures can change from 248 degrees Fahrenheit at daytime to -274 deg. F. at night [4]. Planning a successful mission to and on the moon is not just rocket science, but materials science as well.     

In case you want to follow the ranging rovers you should be able to: they will send e-mails, twitter about their twists and targets and also post on Facebook. It is time to make the rovers your friends.

Keywords: astrobotics, lunabotics, moonbots, rocket science, engineering, terminology.

References, inspirations and more to explore
[1] Google Lunar X PRIZE:
[2] Wikipedia: Google Lunar X Prize [].
[3] X Prize Foundation: Google Lunar X PRIZE Announces Official Roster of Teams Competing in the $30 Million Race to the Moon. February 17, 2011. Listing of  29 participants:
[4] Michael Belfiore: Bound for the Moon. Scientific American April 2012, 306 (4), pp. 54-59. Also see: Shooting for the Moon [].
[5] Watch the Puli Space urchin rolling on the moon source with Hungarian Rhapsody music:
[6] Don't Count Out GLXP Team JURBAN:

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