Researchers at the Field Robotics Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have designed a new lunar rover capable of being both a full scientific research platform and a drilling platform. Designed to operate in wildly changing terrain, drive autonomously in full darkness, and consume very low amounts of power, Scarab was designed from the start for conditions on the moon [TheFutureofThings.com].
A rover that can roam in darkness could win as much as $1.5 million in NASA prize money.
The night rover competition is one of three new "Centennial Challenges" from the agency. NASA hopes it will encourage the development of technology to explore the moon, where a solar-powered robotic explorer may face as much as two weeks of darkness.
"The motivation is energy storage technology for exploration," says Andrew Petro, Centennial Challenge programme manager at NASA in Washington DC. "We're hoping that a range of different technical solutions are brought forward, and we're not assuming it will only be batteries and photovoltaic arrays."
In addition to the night rover prize, NASA plans to offer another $1.5 million for robots that can automatically find and retrieve samples, and a $2 million purse for teams that can place a small satellite into orbit twice in one week.
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