Audi has entered the space race

Before you ask, this isn’t an extra from Wall-E. It’s a new lunar rover from Audi, one it hopes will help Berlin-based engineering group ‘Part-Time Scientists’ win $30 million.

Dubbed the Lunar Quattro, it’s a 35kg 3D-printed moon car made of titanium and high-strength aluminium.  

It’s powered by the sun as a swiveling solar panel moves to catch sunlight and generates electricity that’s fed to a lithium-ion battery powering four wheel-mounted hub motors.

Fitted with Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system, the cutesy caster wheels rotate 360 degrees to allow it to scamper and crab it’s way across the moon’s knobbly and rutted surface with ease.

With a face-bending top speed of 2.2 mph, Audi’s top techies have been working late nights to make sure the rover is as rugged and practical as possible. 

Two cameras in the head of the rover gather 3D images of the vehicle’s surroundings, while a third is used to study materials and produce high-resolution panoramic images that can be beamed down from space.

We’re not sure if it’s capable of Snapchatting its adventures yet, but with all the boffins on board, that technology can’t be far off.

It’s been made as part of a competition called Google Lunar XPrize, a contest that’s trying to put things back on the moon.

In order to win, teams have to send a privately funded rover up into space, land it on the moon, travel 500 meters, and then transmit high definition images and video back to Earth. Simple, right?

Audi is sponsoring German team ‘Part-Time Scientists’ in order to get that big, fat juicy cheque. They’re funding the mission to the moon and helping build the rover. And we imagine the car manufacturer is letting all it’s biggest big-foreheaded engineers and scientists work weekends in order to produce the most kick ass rover possible.

We saw the Lunar Quattro earlier this week at the Detroit Motor Show, where a functional prototype with a long periscope neck and diddy caster wheels was scampering around the show floor like an animatronic puppy.

Hopefully next time we’ll see it is on the moon. Audi plan on plonking it just north of the moon’s equator, close to the 1972 landing site of NASA’s last manned mission to the moon, Apollo 17.

They have to be quick though as verified launch contracts have to be completed by the end of the year, while missions to the moon must be completed by the end of 2017. We’re crossing our fingers it happens.