A private company aims to send a robotic lander and rover to the lunar surface as soon as December of next year on a Falcon 9 rocket.
Astrobotic Technology Inc., a spinoff of Carnegie Mellon University, announced its contract with SpaceX Sunday. The Falcon 9's upper stage will slingshot Astrobotic's spacecraft on a four-day trip to the moon. Astrobotic's lander will enter lunar orbit, align itself and land autonomously, using guidance systems designed for driverless cars.
The rover will explore the moon for three months, operating continuously during the day and hibernating at night.
Astrobotic is one of 21 teams competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize. A $20 million prize goes to the first team to land a rover on the moon by Dec. 31, 2015, drive it one-third of a mile and transmit HD video and images. Other funds are available for other lunar landing feats, like driving three miles or finding water. Astrobotic's payload will search for water and the rover will narrate its adventure while streaming 3-D video of its trip, according to the company.
Terms of the launch contract were not disclosed, but SpaceX's website says a trip on a Falcon 9 starts at $49.9 million and goes up to $56 million, depending on payload weight. The X Prize website notes that SpaceX has offered all contest participants a discount. Astrobotic is the first to secure a spot, a major advantage over the other competitors — Falcon 9s already have a crowded launch manifest.
The rocket, which has made two successful test flights, is the same one NASA is buying to launch cargo to the International Space Station after the space shuttles retire this summer. And last summer, Iridium Communications announced that starting in 2015, it would use Falcon 9 rockets to launch its next-generation communications satellites.
The rocket won't need any modifications to reach the moon, according to Discovery News, which quotes an email from SpaceX founder Elon Musk. It is already capable of sending a payload like the Spirit and Opportunity rovers as far as Mars, he said.
Astrobotic's payload doesn't weigh very much, so there's extra room on the Falcon 9 for another 240 pounds of cargo. The company is selling the room for $700,000 per pound, plus a $250,000-per-payoad fee for integration, communications and other support services, Discovery News says.
the prize for the $30 Million Google Lunar X Prize is $20 Million? lol
So it would cost $140,000,000 for a 200 pound person to go, plus the $250,000 payload fee...
Better start saving
Other than the costs, it is good to see these kind of feats being accomplished by private space companies
"...the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize. A $20 million prize... Other funds are available for other lunar landing feats..."
Different sentences, different subjects. There's a $30 million prize, which may or may not include the $20 million dollar prize, and the other funds.
First thing to pop in my head after reading this is, why not use the robot to act like a bridge to search our galaxy deeper then looking for water on moon..? Sounds Khuler anyways.. :)
I hope that eventually someone will fund clean-up drive for all the dead hardware we will have left on Moon, Mars, and in our own orbit.
Perhaps Green Peace should buy the Shuttle and use it to for cleanup.
How would a robot act like a bridge?? And do you know how long it would take to search the galaxy!? Or am I missing something here? Hmmm... Googling Khuler... Didn't find anything useful. Could you explain please?
Or.....better stop eating !!!
um yeah. orion46920 can you let me in on the little fantsy world you live where we spell "cooler" wrong all the time.
A private company has never been to the moon, so it just MIGHT be a good idea to take small steps rather than "exploring the galaxy" since noone has ever done that before. Hubble. what a piece of trash. (that was a joke for those less sarcastic folks out there)
This is great.
And who said us liberal, science lovers don't understand the power of the private sector?
Bring on the competition. The sooner the gov realizes the entrapments of it's bureaucracy ($2,000 for a toilet brush?).... maybe we finally "can" be the swift and agile country we "want" to be.