Meet Polaris, The First Ice-Drilling Lunar Prospector-BotSpace, Technology Thursday, October 18th, 2012
(LiveScience) Astrobotic, a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff that develops robotics technology for planetary missions, is developing Polaris for an expedition to the moon’s northern pole. It would launch from Cape Canaveral atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The company, in partnership with CMU, seeks to win the Google Lunar X Prize of more than $20 million.
Polaris is a flight prototype, but has the same configuration as the rover that will eventually land on the moon. This will enable Astrobotic team members to spend the coming months testing and improving the robot’s computer vision, navigation and planning software, and software that can plot the rover’s position on the moon within 10 feet. It includes a number of flight-worthy components, including wheels and chassis beams constructed of light, but tough composite materials.
“It is the first rover developed specifically for drilling lunar ice,” said William “Red” Whittaker, Astrobotic CEO and founder of the Field Robotics Center at CMU’s Robotics Institute. Other robots built by the Field Robotics Center have developed technologies necessary for lunar drilling, but none of those machines was ever meant to leave Earth. “What Polaris does is bring those many ideas together into a rover configuration that is capable of going to the moon to find ice,” he added.
Observations by NASA and Indian spacecraft suggest that a substantial amount of water ice could exist at the lunar poles. That ice could be a source of water, fuel and oxygen for future expeditions.
Image: Astrobotic Technology Inc.