Audi’s famous ‘four-ring’ logo should be motoring across the moon late next year as part of the Berlin-based team competing in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition.
In order to snare the $US30-million prize on offer from Google, a team must land a rover vehicle on the moon, drive it for at least 500-metres and send some high-res photos back to earth.
Audi has developed the Audi Lunar Quattro rover for the Berlin team called ‘Part Time Scientists’ – actually 35 engineers on three continents – which is now one of only five teams left in the competition after some 25 other entrants abandoned their projects for a variety of reasons.
The unmanned Audi Lunar Quattro – developed by a team of 16 Audi engineers – runs Audi’s e-tron electric drivetrain and developments in the last few months have seen the ultra-lightweight moon rover vehicle pare another eight kilograms, as well as optimising its autonomous driving operations, high-performance electronics and all-wheel-drive system.
Those efforts to trim the weight down to 30kgs used aluminium 3D printing and revised the mix of materials used in construction. This was despite some changes which saw the vehicle and its wheels actually grow in size in order to increase the contact surface and enhance stability.
In anticipation of the extreme conditions on the moon, the Lunar Quattro has already spent some time in Audi’s sun simulator chamber. Next-up, the landing probe and two Audi Lunar Quattro vehicles will head to the sand dunes of the Middle East for simulations of the entire moon mission.
If everything stays on-track, a launcher such as a ‘Falcon 9’ – with a cargo capacity of up to 100kgs – will blast-off late next year to transport ALINA (the landing module of the ‘Part Time Scientists’) containing the two Audi Lunar Quattro Rovers as well as other research materials (for NASA, the European Space Agency and Wikipedia) to the moon.
The plan is for a space journey of 385,000kms and then touch-down close to the historic landing point from 1972.
Then the Audi Lunar Quattro, equipped with four cameras, will begin work and hopefully find the moon rover from the Apollo 17 mission which is still parked in the moon’s Valley of Taurus-Littrow.
Sound far-fetched? Well a few days ago, the Audi-backed ‘Part Time Scientists’ booked the launcher rocket for late 2017 with Spaceflight Inc…you could say the countdown in now underway.