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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Polaris rover to travese the Moon in 2015

Astrobotic Technology Inc., in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, has unveiled the full-sized prototype of Polaris, a solar-powered robot designed to prospect for ice at the moon's poles while pursuing the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize.

Scheduled for liftoff October 2015 from Cape Canaveral, Polaris will ride atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and an Astrobotic lander to transport the robot to a lunar pole, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Looking for ice on the Moon in 2015?
The rover will prospect for water, oxygen, methane, and other volatiles which could be useful for energy, supporting life, and producing rocket fuel. ”This rover is a first step toward using off-Earth resources to further human exploration of our solar system,” said John Thornton, President.
NASA and Indian spacecraft already have made observations suggesting that a substantial amount of water ice could exist at the lunar poles. It could provide water, oxygen and rocket fuel for future expeditions.
Rendering of Polaris Rover on Moon
Polaris is specialized for drilling at the Moon’s pole which is characterized by low glancing sun angles and operation near shadowed regions that can reach cryogenic temperatures. The rover is tall enough to deploy a 4ft drill and produce 250W of power with solar panels oriented toward the Sun, which stays just above above the horizon.
Polaris, 5 ½ feet tall, 7 feet wide and almost 8 feet long, can move at about a foot a second on 2-foot-diameter wheels. The rover weighs 150 kilograms, or about 330 pounds, and can accommodate a drill and science instruments of up to 70 kilograms, or a bit more than 150 pounds.
Computer vision determines the rover’s position on the Moon with 10ft accuracy. ”It’s game changing for lunar surface exploration and we’re the ones to pursue it,” said William “Red” Whittaker, CEO. Without GPS, Polaris will match surface pictures with satellite imagery taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to determine its location on the Moon.

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