Moonage Daydream: Is Audi Backing The Next Successful Moon Rover?

It's 2016 and we've only progressed a little bit more into the future, but the prospect of space travel is always pushing further forward.  For instance, one of the better car companies of past and modern times is now helping a team of scientists plot how to put a rover on the moon...you know, for the future.

It's more R2-D2 than R8, but that's still cool.
(Image courtesy theverge.com.)


According to theverge.com, the Audi automotive company is backing a team who plan to obtain the Google X Prize by landing a rover on the moon and having it traverse 500 meters of regolith.  The X Prize offers a $30 million reward to the first successful moon-mobilers, of which 5 teams are currently being considered as major contenders.  Audi intends to aid their chosen design team with many mission-critical elements, including "electronic, optical, and material issues," as well as challenges "pertaining to weight."


The complexities of such a mission are vast, and require exceptional engineering.
But we regular humans can at least cheer the contestants on,
and enjoy a nice game of Lunar Lander.


The German-based mission team, known as Part Time Scientists, intend to have their rover land on and explore the site of the Apollo 17 landing, which occurred in 1972.  Fascinatingly, the team has chosen to use 3D-printed parts made of aluminum and titanium, some of which are as small as 1 millimeter thick.  Wiring is routed through special hollow components in the structure.  And best of all, it might not be the only device that ends up up there.

The team intends to include a 3D printer that could utilize the moon's natural resources to spin out even more devices for moon missions.  Using natural aluminum, titanium, and magnesium, tools and parts could be 3D-printed ON the moon, rather than having to be shipped up at tremendous cost (hundreds of thousands of dollars per kilogram.)

Robert Böhme, CEO of PT Scientists, explained the usefulness and foresight of this idea, stating:
"If you bring the right technology back to the Moon, you can pave the way for more exploration...And not just exploration, but also to find a commercial benefit for future missions. It's really hard to justify a lunar mission now, even if you get it down to $30 million...That's why we want to focus so much on science, we want to show that there is the value. There is value that you can take away from being on the surface of the Moon. It's important to show what could be done."


This sentiment echoed JFK's famous 1962 speech stating,
"We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win...
Yes, dude, that fucking moon right there, for real, we're gonna lay the smack down up there."
(Image courtesy ampersandstrategies.com)

A major objective of the mission is to observe the remaining Apollo 17 artifacts, to assess them for damages and what the wear-and-tear of being moon-marooned has done to them. This could lead to innovations for future spacecraft, rover vehicles, or even space colonies (which Russia claims to want in on.)  As the lunar temperature fluctuates hundreds of degrees between night and day, the effects on the old-school lunar rover could be dramatic, and they deserve closer examination.

It is this contribution, drawn from the history and aimed towards the future of space exploration, that drives the team. The $30 million X Prize reward is secondary to the science. The plan, if executed properly, will require the Part Time Scientists' rover to travel some 2.3 kilometers - over five times the distance the X Prize rules require - to find the Apollo remnants.

Assuming aliens haven't carjacked that sweet ride we left up there.
(Image courtesy universetoday.com.)
The team intends to launch a pair of rovers in the third quarter of 2017, around 18 months from now. And, while NASA's Office Of The Apocalypse won't be prepared to warn us of any invading asteroids or aliens until at least 2020, any moonmen reading this transmission can be duly warned that there might be a little extra traffic headed their way soon.

As for the Part Time Scientists, they may not be physically driving this Audi, but it'll hopefully be a joyride just the same.

The Fast And The Furious 8:  Moon Mayhem?
(Image courtesy ptscientists.com.)

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