The New Lunar Rover by Astrobotic Technologies

Astrobotic Technology’s prototype is scheduled to explore the Apollo landing site in 2011.

solar-lunar-module-by-astrobotic-prototype

Astrobotic Technology’s prototype is scheduled to explore the Apollo landing site in 2011. If it performs the job well, its developers could be looking at $25 million thanks to the Google Lunar X Prize. Dr. William Whitaker of Carnegie Mellon University devised this solar-powered bot to traverse the Apollo landing sites and determine how the remaining debris has weathered in the lunar landscape. [AstroboticTechnologies via BoingBoing]

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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