Sixteen teams from around the world have set their sights on the moon... and the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE. The challenge - issued in 2007 - is to land a privately-funded rover on the lunar surface, travel 500 meters, and transmit back high definition video and images - all at a fraction of what a typical NASA mission costs. The German team calls themselves the "Part Time Scientists."
With an adjustable solar panel, three cameras and four sturdy tires, the 'Part Time Scientists' rover looks ready for action. The team has been at work on the rover since 2008, says founder Robert Böehme, using components originally designed for earth-bound electronics and for satellites.
"Using technology which is kind of not intended to send something to the moon is always very risky, so we have to really slim down everything so that it fits into a less than four tons payload vehicle," said Böehme.
Cost is a concern, as well, which is one reason the team is making its rover as high-tech as possible.
"So what we wanted to try to do was to make as much as hi-tech - as you would call - available for space applications, so that you have more processing power for less energy. Energy is the number one constraint in space. So that really cuts down to our mission costs," said Böehme.
Böehme expects their mission cost will be under $30 million. He hopes to secure a contract for a launch vehicle by the end of the year and send the rover on its way by the end of 2017. The 15 other teams in the competition are from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Hungary, Japan, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, India and the United States.