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Robotics Space

Solar-Powered Moon Rover To Explore Apollo Landing 151

Posted by samzenpus
from the check-out-the-whole-stage dept.
Mike writes "Carnegie Mellon roboticist Dr. William Whittaker has teamed up with Astrobiotic Technology to develop a solar powered moon rover that will explore the Apollo landing site in 2011. The photovoltaic clad robot features two electric motors in the hub of each wheel, and a half cone of solar generators up top that will power the wheels, run computers, and beam stereo HD video back to earth. The project has been entered in the $25 million Google Lunar X Prize competition."
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Solar-Powered Moon Rover To Explore Apollo Landing

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  • No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by amstrad (60839) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @10:45PM (#28790909)

    I think the Apollo landing sites need to be preserved for posterity.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dohzer (867770)

      But they've already dismantled it!

    • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @11:51PM (#28791329)
      Why? Sure, its "cool" to preserve everything, but its a heck of a lot more valuable to see how the machines have fared for the eventual colonization of the moon and for future generations. I'm not exactly sure what the point is if we are looking back on history rather than creating it.
      • Mod parent up. Why should we preserve it? How are we suppose to move forward (by seeing how the machines have fared and see if it is possible to use this as a launch to Mars or possible location for colonisation) if we refuse to tread on the steps of those that came before? Simply keeping the markings there for no other reason then posterity just sounds like a waste to me when there are things we can learn.
        • by Retric (704075)

          Yes, but you can learn all that from looking at the 2nd moon landing site. There will only ever be one "first footprint on the moon" and when it's gone that's it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ivan256 (17499)

            Where do you think the second guy coming down the ladder stepped?

            The first footprint on the moon lasted less than 20 minutes.

            • by Retric (704075)

              I was talking about the site including the ship and flag etc. It's like the pyramid at Giza, it would be cool to keep a stone from there on your desk, but it's never going to be replaced. If they had landed several lenders and knew they would not randomly land in the middle of the site then cool, but for a first visit it seems risky.

        • Some things, whether the Buddhas of Banyan or the site of the first ever human feet to walk on the moon, are just too important to be permanently damaged. It's very hard to undo. Think of the emotional impact. Two hundred years from now, some tourist will set eyes on the first ever human footprint on a celestial body, and will be struck with awe at the ingenuity of man. Or, he will see a site that was ransacked by short-sightedness and carelessness and will shake his head at the stupidity of man. Let futur

      • Why? Sure, its "cool" to preserve everything, but its a heck of a lot more valuable to see how the machines have fared for the eventual colonization of the moon and for future generations. I'm not exactly sure what the point is if we are looking back on history rather than creating it.

        Okay then how about preserving the Apollo 11 site but trashing the others? Then everybody's happy.

    • Really? REALLY? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TiggertheMad (556308) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:08AM (#28791751) Homepage Journal
      Oh, for fuck's sake...we go to the trouble to build a super slick rover to explore the surface of another planet, and they want to waste time visiting the .0001% that we already have explored? If there isn't something better to be exploring on the moon, why the hell are we going again?

      I knew we were a glorified pack of narcissistic monkeys but this just take it.

      "Lets go look and see where we landed LAST time we were here, that seems like a good idea."
      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by Splab (574204)

        It's the economic crisis at work, NASA can't afford to build a new set for a "moon landing", so they are just reusing their old one, thus requiring them to have a cover up for why the old props are in the shot.

      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        I knew we were a glorified pack of narcissistic monkeys but this just take it.

        I don't know about you, but I personally think it's pretty cool that an independent team might be able to accomplish with a few million dollars what it previously took an entire government billions of dollars to do.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        You're right. We should be building a theme park there instead, with blackjack and hookers.
      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        Yeah, it's really about time we took a look at that magnetic anomaly near Tycho crater. That thing's been bugging me for 8 years now...

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        Going back to the moon has several advantages. First, the Moon is thought to be ripe with Helium3 which is we ever figure cold fusion out would be a major advantage. They estimate that if the space shuttle's cargo bay was filled with helium3, it would be enough to power all of the US for 10 years or more.

        But besides that aspect, using the moon as a staging ground for other missions can mean a lot larger payload as well as larger devices being launched to other planets or even solar systems. Imagine if the v

    • by AC-x (735297)

      Agree we should protect Apollo 11's landing site, but what about the later missions?

      I don't really feel quite as attached to say, Apollo 17's landing site and I'm sure it would be useful to know how the hardware has held up 40 years in space.

    • by MrLogic17 (233498)

      How about we preserve the Apollo 11 site, and explore all the others?

      Science objectives met, and the historic nostalgia folks have their first landing site.

    • by DigiShaman (671371) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @12:20AM (#28791471) Homepage

      This single punch is all that's required to earn my respect. No speech, interview, or biography holds as much weight to the punch he threw. It's an act of pure love and protection of the sacrifice he made to make history for all mankind.

      Buzz Aldrin, you f-ing ROCK!!!

    • What's sad is that he sued Buzz Aldrin for this. I don't know. If I just got my ass kicked by a septegenerian, I think I would hide in a hole and hope everyone forgot. I certainly wouldn't sue the guy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by macshit (157376)

        The case was tossed out too, making him look even more stupid!

        I can imagine the Judge's reaction upon viewing the video evidence...

        My verdict: you are a mega-wanker; he should have hit you harder!

        NEXT!

  • by jms (11418) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @10:50PM (#28790935)

    Sending a mouse to disturb the eternal footprints of giants. Sort of a metaphor for the current state of NASA, sadly.

    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      Another GLXP team was quoted as saying "we promise to stay outside the fence".

    • by Narishma (822073)
      What does NASA have to do with this? It's a private team who's building and launching this rover.
  • by TinBromide (921574) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @10:50PM (#28790941)
    I hope that they put on a really really good telephoto lense. Those original footprints have the chance of lasting for thousands of years if WE DON'T STOMP ALL OVER THEM WITH A FRICKING ROBOT.
    • I agree, messing them up does nobody any good.

      Now, if you could dig them up and bring them back, along with some other artifacts, now that would be worth something!

      Do regular international salvage laws apply to abandoned moon gear?
      • I would think that no laws apply in space. Sure, we have the moon treaty, but that's hardly a paninternational agreement.

        The only rules that apply are those that others have the ability and will to enforce. Both factors severely reduce the number of people that will bother you up there.

        Of course, if you upset enough people, you might not want to try coming back.

        • You touched upon the two most important facets: lunar exploration is covered by international treaties, and national laws become relevant when you return back into that country's territory. IIRC there are some laws that govern US citizens' involvement in other space programmes since it is a legitimate issue of national security.

    • and what's with this old technology of HD video. Why use 1080p when you can go 4k resolution?
  • But wait... (Score:1, Redundant)

    by argmanah (616458) *
    Couldn't they just send a rover to like Nevada or something? I read on the internet that's where the moon landings happened, so it must be true.
  • Horrible Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MarkLR (236125) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @10:53PM (#28790953)

    I think the Apollo landing sites should be off limits. One mistake and Armstrong's first boot prints could be destroyed. I cannot believe that a group of scientists have the audacity to mess around with the Apollo 11 site.

  • by JayTech (935793) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @10:55PM (#28790969)
    Why is it necessary that we go back and explore what was accomplished in the past? Call me stupid, but it seems like a rover on the moon could do something more useful than exploring a bunch of dusty boot prints and some used equipment. Anyone care to enlighten me?
    • It might be worth it just to shut up the hoax conspiracy theorists. When private companies are sending their own rovers to the moon, it's pretty hard to call it a government cover-up anymore. Of course, I'm sure it won't convince the die-hards. Nothing will.
    • by mbone (558574)

      They think it will get them press.

      I bet, in the end, they don't do it, but send the rover elsewhere.

    • by isaac338 (705434) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @11:37PM (#28791263)

      Why is it necessary that we go back and explore what was accomplished in the past?

      Because the relics of the past visits will give us valuable insight into long-term exposure of our machinery in the environment of the Moon - something that is surely relevant to future efforts of colonization. All the things we left behind have been sitting (hopefully?) untouched for 40 years getting bombarded with micrometeoroids, experiencing huge temperature swings and moonquakes, and generally experiencing the reality of existing there.

      I find it fascinating and am excited to see pictures of how the sites have weathered.

    • by laron (102608)

      It might be interesting to see how the hardware that was left behind aged. Do those instruments still work or how badly did they suffer from radiation and extreme temperatures?

  • Moonquakes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jofer (946112) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @10:59PM (#28790999)

    While they're at it, it would be awesome to deploy a few more seismometers...

    Moonquakes [nasa.gov] are pretty damn cool from a seismological perspective. Beyond that, some of the ones recorded by Apollo-installed seismometers were >Mw 5. Big enough to be damaging.

    The moon isn't tectonically active, of course, but it is seismically active, and the data recorded in the 70's indicates that the moon's lithosphere is a very different beast compared to earth's. At any rate, it would produce some extremely neat data!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Poobar (1558627)

      Check out Moonlite [bnsc.gov.uk], a (hopefully) upcoming British mission to do just that.

      Good for science, good for the comedy value of saying "penetrator" and giggling a lot.

    • Re:Moonquakes (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mbone (558574) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @07:31AM (#28793559)

      One of the things that I think was near criminal about the post Apollo period was that the ALSEPs were turned off, including the seismometers, to satisfy Senator Proxmire. So many billions of dollars to put them on the Moon, but $ 250,000 / year to keep collecting data was just too much.

  • Dr. James Kelloway: You think it's all a couple of looney scientists, it's not! It's bigger. There are people out there, *forces* out there, who have a lot to lose. They're grown ups. It's gotten too big, it's in the hands of grown ups!

    Charles Brubaker: [dividing up the first aid kit] John, you take the flint. Peter and I will split up the matches. Anybody want the gun?
    Lt. Col Peter Willis: I'd shoot my foot.
    Cmdr. John Walker: I'd shoot his foot.

    then there is of course, my favorite: so thereâ(
    • damn... didn't notice the commas didn't copy right. You would think that stuff wouldn't be a problem anymore.. I mean we can do so much with technology.... I mean, we can put a man on the moo..... oh... wait...
  • Why two motors in each wheel hub?
    The only reason I can think of is that 1 small motor @ 100% is more efficient than 1 large motor @ 50%... or is that incorrect?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cbhacking (979169)

      Possibly just rednendency. The Mars rovers have shown us that a little design redundency and simple, good engineering can go a really, really long way. It sounds like this moon rover is hoping to follow in their metaphorical footsteps. This seems an excellent approach (one that we should take more often) and I wish it the best of luck!

  • WHY? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @11:33PM (#28791233) Journal

    First off, it's bullshit. They may develop the thing, but it's not going to fly itself. The Google X-Prize money is for the development, not the flying, and it's not enough to get it there anyway.

    They WANT to have it explore the moon (actually they want to be seen wanting to do so, in order to increase their chances of getting the prize money; you think the timing of the announcement was random?). There's nothing here about anyone else wanting them to.

    And given their announced target, I think they've just pointed the space demodulator at their foot. Far too many people would be offended.

    All in all, this is a PR job. The guy may be capable of developing, but the chances are that having teamed up with this company, their plans are to get the prize money, maybe develop, maybe not, and know for certain ahead of time it'll never leave the ground. They just want the money. The tip off? Such a device could do valuable research, such as roving around the south pole looking for ice. Are they planning any useful or noble venture like that? No. They're planning on some virtual tourism, and true to big ticket money tourist ideals think that they're permitted to walk on anyone's lawn they wish just so they can take their holiday photos.

    Fuck 'em. If you think they're hosebags for wanting to trundle all over what may be the most historic of historic sites, complain to the Google Lunar X-Prize people http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/lunar/contact-us [googlelunarxprize.org] and tell them not to support this project.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by The_Duck271 (1494641)

      the chances are that having teamed up with this company, their plans are to get the prize money, maybe develop, maybe not, and know for certain ahead of time it'll never leave the ground. They just want the money.

      What? There's no prize money until you land on the Moon. From the prize website [googlelunarxprize.org]: "The first team to land on the Moon and complete the mission objectives will be awarded $20 million."

      I heard Red Whittaker, the team leader, speak last summer; he said he does expect to make money off the project. Not from the prize, as the costs are several times the prize money, but from all the money that can be generated from the publicity of the landing. He wouldn't be doing the project if it was going to lose money; he

    • All in all, this is a PR job.

      No fooling - Red (never heard him called "William") Whittaker is involved. It's a little strange that the summary states he "teamed up" with Astrobotic, given that he is the Chairman and CTO. [astrobotictechnology.com]

  • Why bother visiting old relics? Surely there are more interesting landing sites on the dark side, or the poles, of the moon that warrant more exploration than 40-year-old non-rusting relics.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      But thats the thing, we need to see if they were non-rusting or not. Sure, we can know that they aren't rusted but 40 years of moonquakes, micro-meteoroids and just general disuse is going to make it a valuable insight into a future plan of colonizing the moon.
      • by T Murphy (1054674)
        We could send a rover to do whatever exploration or science and include sensors to collect data on how the rover is faring. We can get birds-eye pictures of the landing sites with telescopes or satellites- any under-the-hood information can just as well be gathered by observing the rover. If waiting a few extra years for data collection means we keep the landing sites intact, I'm all for it.
  • by techoi (1435019)
    I can fully get behind this if: 1) the robot proves all "the moon landing was a hoax" a-holes wrong once and for all, and... 2) we build another robot to finish the ass kicking that Buzz Aldrin started on that fuckwad Bart Sibrel.
  • Not a chance for something solar panel getting enough power over a long period of time on the moon.
    The moon dust (regolith) sticks to everything electrostatically and it's so fine that brushing it off is damn near impossible.

    Optimistically, they write...

    There's just one problem left to figure out: how to protect the rover from minus 240 F lunar nights. The team is experimenting with different ways to package lithium ion batteries to be able to function after two weeks of exposure to air that is nearly as

    • It depends on how tall their rover is. If its panels are high enough off the ground, they would avoid the electrostatic problem. Of course, I can't find any reference to how tall that would need to be.

      I agree with the 'air' comment. They don't have to worry about *air* at -240F, they have to worry about plain vacuum radiation.

      But even that has been solved, just ask anyone who has designed a satellite with sensitive electronics. After all, nearly all satellites spend 50% of their time in the shade.

    • by karstux (681641)

      I'm not sure about this. Kicked up lunar dust particles move in parabolic trajectories. Since there's no atmosphere, they won't stay afloat and disperse. So, if you know which way the wheels will kick up dust, you can strategically place the solar panels where they won't get dusty. They'll stay clean forever...

      That bit about the batteries is really ridiculous. A thin aluminum foil will protect the batteries from thermal radiation just fine. Apart from that, there's no "temperature" on the moon...

  • "Now, the purpose of this year's expedition is to see if we can find any traces of the last one."
  • by Anonymous Freak (16973) <prius DOT driver AT mac DOT com> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @02:33AM (#28792259) Journal

    What's with the summary's "the" Apollo landing site? Last time I checked, there were 6 landing sites. (Apollos 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17.)

  • I agree with the other posters, this should be preserved. Or at least the 1st one.

    Anybody else remember "First Footprint City" from the BBC SciFi series Earth Search?

    If there is a real compelling scientific justification to see how the materials have survived then designate one of the other landing sites that is deemed less important and send the robot there. After all several Apollo missions went to the moon.

    Sending one for Apollo 11 sounds more like a badly thought out publicity exercise then anything els

  • They'll drive around with a buggy in a Area 51 hangar for a while for 25mio?

    I could do that for 12mio... within a year ;)
  • To those whining about returning to an Apollo site instead of doing some new exploration/science: This isn't a science mission, and the people doing it aren't scientists. The Lunar X Prize isn't trying to promote lunar science. It's about improving space technology. By returning to an Apollo site, the teams can generate lots of public interest that will help them make some money to cover their costs, and break even on the finances. If they went somewhere else these private teams would likely have to absorb
  • by Tarlus (1000874)
    What's the point of this? We already know what's there. Why not pay millions of dollars to send it to a part of the moon we haven't explored yet?
  • a half cone of solar generators up top that will power

    bit strange way to design things. You'll get relatively low power (because a lot of the cells won't be full-on to the sun), and relatively high weight because half of your cells will be in the shade. I'd have thought that you'd get a better power-weight ratio by pivoting a flat plate of cells. It's not as if the direction of the sun is either unpredictable or difficult to detect. Pivots may be a problem, but there are plenty of rotary joints in the machi

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