I wanted to take some more time this week to talk about rovers. RCSP is building a rover with rocker suspension as part of a design effort. The Rocket City Space Pioneers and our partners have built a few versions of rovers over the last 1.5 years. As many of you may know, most all of the teams going after the Google Lunar X PRIZE are planning to use rovers to travel 500 meters on the surface of the Moon. Most of the configurations are very small in comparison to the JPL lander, Curiosity, which recently landed on Mars. In fact, several of the Google team’s rovers are smaller than a laundry basket and less than 50 pounds in total weight.
Curiosity is definitely the Cadillac of rovers if there is one. The Curiosity rover is about the size of a small SUV - 10 feet long (not including the arm), 9 feet wide and 7 feet tall [about 3 meters long (not including the arm), 2.7 meters wide, and 2.2 meters tall or about the height of a basketball player]. Its arm can reach about 7 feet (2.2 meters). It weighs 900 kilograms (2,000 pounds). That is heavy duty! Some of its cool features are: geology lab, rocker-bogie suspension, rock-vaporizing laser and lots of cameras. Most Google Lunar X PRIZE teams will only be able to carry a camera or two. Our mission is to land softly and not crash - also to seek out US hardware and send back high definition pictures. Oh yeah, translating 500 meters is worth more cold cash, too. The Curiosity’s mission is to search areas of Mars for past or present conditions favorable for life and conditions capable of preserving a record of life. That is a very cool mission.
We are searching for life from Earth that landed on the Moon more than 40 years ago with a tiny remote control rover in order to make lunar exploration routine, affordable, commercially viable, and hopefully sustainable, and JPL gets to search for life on Mars with a Cadillac! Our missions should costs less than $100M turn-key, and the Mars mission was $2.5B in comparison. Maybe someday there will be a Mars X PRIZE to make a Mars landing to search for a Curiosity Rover! I sure hope it will not happen 40 years after!