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A crowd of more than 150 students and faculty packed a lunar expo Thursday in Carnegie Mellon's Planetary Robotics Lab that showcased the progress achieved toward winning the Google Lunar X Prize and creating a sustainable series of exploration missions. The Astrobotic-led mission relies on the experience and technical prowess of the university's Robotics Institute and the inspirations under development by the university's Moon Arts group.
PITTSBURGH, PA – August 23, 2010 – Astrobotic Technology, a Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) spin-off company announces that Caterpillar Inc. will be a sponsor its first robotic expedition to the lunar surface. The initial Astrobotic mission will revisit the Apollo 11 site in April 2013 with a five-foot tall, 160-lb. robot broadcasting 3D high-definition video. The mission will carry payloads to the Moon and convey the experience to the world via Internet video access.
The Astrobotic Technology spacecraft employs small thrusters at each of its four corners to control its attitude, or pose in space, so that the main engine points in the right direction for its major burns and the spacecraft touches down cleanly. The video shows a reduced-size platform that demonstrates sensor fusion between inertial and absolute sensing has been achieved. The video closes with a scene showing the attitude returns to zero despite imparted disturbances.
Astrobotic's initial Moon expedition now is racing for up to $36 million in rewards from NASA, the Google Lunar X Prize and the Florida launch bonus, as documented in today's edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review:
PITTSBURGH, PA – August 6, 2010 – Astrobotic Technology, a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off company devoted to robotic exploration of the Moon, announced that it will pursue NASA’s offer to buy up to $10 million in data from a commercial lunar lander mission. The space agency announced its Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) program today with a total budget of $30 million.
MSNBC's Cosmic Blog displayed the Astrobotic expedition animation in its announcement of the new NASA lunar lander data purchase program. Alan Boyle described Astrobotic as a "front-running" Google Lunar X Prize team that will benefit from up to $10 million of space agency revenue. The complete post is at The animation, created by Astrobotic's Aaron Davidson, is below.
The UK publication "New Scientist" featured Astrobotic Technology and Carnegie Mellon University in its report on the new NASA lunar lander data purchase program. Company founder Red Whittaker and President David Gump explained the tremendous value that the NASA declaration will have in motivating additional customers and providing very crucial pre-launch revenue to the several firms that may be selected to participate.
One of the challenges in delivering a mobile robot to the Moon is getting it off the lander and down to the surface. The video below shows the conceptual design of a ramp that unfolds from the lander using only a preloaded spring for power. During flight, the mechanism is clamped in place using frangibolts, which are electrically triggered release mechanisms. When the frangibolts release, the ramp unfolds under the control of a series of rigid hinged linkages called a four-bar mechanism.
Astrobotic is developing lightweight robotic excavators for the Moon to recover the rich volatiles at the poles. Recent data indicate that not all of these volatiles exist only in hard-to-reach dark crater floors -- some may be found in regions that periodically receive sunlight, but covered by an insulating layer of soil. These Astrobotic machines enable removal of the insulating dry soil to mine the water ice and other


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