New Rover is a Hi-Def TV Studio, Internet Node

astrobotic-prototype3-side-sm.jpg

Astrobotic Technology’s prototype is scheduled to explore the Apollo landing site in 2011 &mdash and hopefully win the $25 million Google Lunar X Prize. Developed by Dr. William Whittaker, a roboticist at Carnegie Mellon, the solar-powered rover has been tweaked and fine-tuned for its mission, which will involve examining how materials used by the Apollo 11 mission have weathered on the Moon.

Here are a few unique engineering feats:

Unlike Mars rovers that have motors in the hub of each wheel, the Astrobotic lunar rover tucks two motors inside the body of the robot where they are safeguarded both from heat and the abrasive lunar dust. Each motor drives one side of the robot’s wheels using a chain drive like a bicycle. Key to the design are tailored composite structures made from carbon fiber tape and resin…

The fundamental innovation developed at Carnegie Mellon is the rover’s asymmetrical shape. On the cold side, there’s a flat radiator angled up to the black lunar sky as well as a vertical panel for the logos of the corporations sponsoring the expedition. On the hot side, a half-cone of solar cells generates ample electrical power to power the wheels, run the computers and energize the transmitter beaming back stereo HD video to Earth.

Another innovation is a lunar-specific drive train. Unlike Mars rovers that have motors in the hub of each wheel, the Astrobotic lunar rover tucks two motors inside the body of the robot where they are safeguarded both from heat and the abrasive lunar dust. Each motor drives one side of the robot’s wheels using a chain drive, like a bicycle. The chain drive mechanism has been tested in a Carnegie Mellon vacuum chamber to ensure that is does not experience “cold welding” &mdash a process where materials sometimes merge or weld to each other when touching in a hard vacuum.

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4 Responses to New Rover is a Hi-Def TV Studio, Internet Node

  1. RedShirt77 says:

    Can’t we all just drive a jeep out to the Nevada desert and see?

  2. KitWorks says:

    Sorry folks, but I’m pretty sure that’s only two unique engineering feats.

    Still cool though. Although I had always hoped there would be a moon-park or something. Do we want rover tracks all over those awesome boot prints?

  3. RedShirt77 says:

    I guess my serious questions would be. are they going to drive over the footprints? and if this thing has a hot side and a cold side, how the heck are they going to flip a u-turn?

  4. echolocate chocolate says:

    It mentions that the rover will be an internet node, which makes perfect sense. My question is… what is the IANA country code for the moon?

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