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Astrobotic Technology Announces Details Galore on Series of Commercial Moon Missions (News) October 31, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in Astrobotic, Current News, dozer, Google Lunar X Prize, Integration, lander, Lunar Chariot, Obama, private sector, rover, selenography, Shackleton.

Today, Astrobotic Technology (a leading contender for the Google Lunar X Prize) announced a new series of missions as part of their commercial efforts.

“Astrobotic will robotically explore the Moon’s high-interest areas on a commercial basis, collecting information required to design future outposts and to answer scientific questions about the Moon and Earth.”
-David Gump, President of Astrobotic, from their announcement

As part of the announcement, Astrobotic released a White Paper (a ‘white paper’ being an a report or guide that addresses problems and how to solve them, typically seen in business and politics) detailing their program and goals.

In addition to their initial effort for the $20 million Lunar X Prize, TranquilityTrek (which, as David Gump told Space.com for their article today, was “very clear” that it was “going to cost more to win the prize than the prize itself”), Astrobotic will follow with five more missions:

  • Three polar rovers;
  • A lunar lander; and
  • A lunar dozer (see below).

Rovers and landers are pretty commonplace ideas, but the ‘dozer‘ was a new one to me. With some digging (excuse the pun), I found an example: NASA’s Lunar Chariot prototype, which could build roads, dig trenches, or even mine minerals. There’s even some video of it in action, kicking ass and taking names on Earth:

The White Paper has oodles of details on their exact mission plans, particularly the diagram on page 3.

With the X Prize TranquilityTrek slated for Q2 2010, they’ve got their South pole scout (headed for the rim of Shackleton Crater, long considered a prime location for a moon colony) shooting for Q3 2011, with two more missions (a North Pole scout and a ‘Moon Quake 1″ seismic and weather collection mission at Shackleton) set for 2012 and an Ice Surveyor mission going deep into Shackleton itself, followed by the Lunar Dozer mission also at Shackleton Rim, both being conducted in 2013.

So, for Astrobotic alone, that’s 6 total lunar missions in the next four years. Exciting times. And this, of course (and as the White Paper notes), is just the initial slate. Most or all of the rovers will include HD video broadcasting, it sounds like, so we’ll all have a front row seat, to boot.

The general goal of the missions is to build a data library to facilitate other organizations’ (e.g., NASA; Barack Obama, in his space plan, talked of “amplifying NASA’s reach” with the private space sector) and companies’ missions with information for sale, such as detailed terrain maps, allowing future colonial efforts to simply buy the information from Astrobotic at a lower cost that it would take for the efforts to collect the data themselves.

Check out that 4-page White Paper and Astrobotic‘s site for the full skinny on their efforts, and keep an eye here for frequent updates and analysis as they (and other similar companies, such as fellow Google Lunar X Prize competitor Odyssey Moon, Ltd.) progress rapidly towards their mission slate :)


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