Before you ask, this isn’t an extra from Wall-E. It’s Audi’s really, really cute moon car, the Lunar Quattro. It’s a rover that Audi hopes will help Berlin-based engineering group ‘Part-Time Scientists’ win $30 million.
The three 3D-printed titanium and high-strength aluminium vehicle was first shown at the beginning of the year, but since then it’s undergone heavy testing and had some revisions.
It’s still powered by the sun – a swivelling solar panel moves to catch sunlight to generate electricity – and a lithium-ion battery powering four wheel-mounted hub motors. Because of testing, these wheels have been increased so it can scramble over the Moon’s, um, moon-y surface with more stability. Weight has been reduced from 38 to 30kg through new 3D-printing techniques.
Fitted with Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system, the cutesy castor wheels rotate 360 degrees to allow it to scamper and crab its way across the moon’s knobbly and rutted surface.
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 metres, 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 its biggest big-foreheaded engineers and scientists work weekends in order to produce the most kick ass rover possible.
A functional prototype with a long periscope neck and diddy caster wheels is being sent to the UAE to scamper around like an animatronic puppy for final testing before a launch. Which is set for the end of 2017, as Audi’s travel agents have booked Lunar on a launch with the ALINA – the lunar lander that’ll carry two of them to the Moon’s surface – at the end of 2017.
So hopefully next time we’ll see it is on the Moon. Where the plan is to still plonk 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 – a nice media-savvy touch.