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Audi lunar quattro rover revealed

  • Jul 01, 2015
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Audi lunar quattro on the Moon artist rendering

Audi has revealed that it has teamed up with the only German team competing in the 30 million dollar Google Lunar X Prize competition. Audi has lent a helping hand to the 'Part-Time Scientists' team in refining their moon-rover.

The Google Lunar X Prize competition, announced in 2007, aims to develop privately funded space exploration techniques. The challenge is to launch a robotic explorer to the moon, successfully land it on the moon, make the robot explore (not just move) at least 500 metres on the surface of the moon while beaming back high-definition videos and photos back to the earth. The last successful moon rover that explored its surface was the Yutu, which was a part of China's Chang'e 3 lunar explorer program; it travelled less than 100 metres before electrical faults stopped it in its tracks. The first lunar rover to traverse the moon's surface was the Russian Lunokhod 1, and at 10,540 metres, it holds the record for travelling the longest distance on the surface of the moon.

Audi lunar quattro Front Left Quarter Testing

The Part-Time Scientists team consists of about 35 engineers from Germany and Austria with a backing of experts from other countries. It was founded by 29-year old Robert Böhme, an IT consultant based in Berlin, a year after the Google Lunar X Prize competition was announced. The team is one of the three teams that has made significant progress amongst the 34 that initially registered to participate in the competition. The team has already won two milestone prizes in the competition by developing their own rover and developing an imaging system. The Part-Time Scientists are still to announce how and when they will transport the rover to the moon, though with partners like Audi, NVIDIA, Technical University of Berlin, the Austrian Space Forum and the German Aerospace Center they may have a plan ready.

Audi has helped the Part-Time Scientists team by refining the rover. The company's expertise in light-weight construction, design, electric propulsion, all-wheel drive technology along with autonomous and semi-autonomous driving tech fits the bill for developing the rover further. Officially named the 'Audi lunar quattro', the moon rover has received a design makeover from Audi's Munich-based Concept Design Studio and is being tested for durability and quality by the company. It is expected to be launched towards the moon by the end of 2017. A landing spot close to the 1972 Apollo 17 landing spot has been chosen.

Audi lunar quattro Left Side Profile

The Audi lunar quattro, though being redesigned by the company, gets very minimal visual cues to it, you know that it is indeed an Audi. The 4-ring logo and quattro branding are the only obvious clues; Audi claims that its minimalistic, form-follows-function design also points to the rover's Audi connection.

The Audi lunar quattro is a work in motion still, Audi will work closely with the Part-Time Scientists team to further refine the rover. In its current form, the rover is a small 35-kilogram vehicle and consists of a 30 square centimetre solar-panel array connected to a compact lithium-ion battery, a swivelling front head which holds two stereoscopic cameras as well as a third camera which can take high-definition images and study lunar material, four 360-degree rotatable wheels each connected to double wishbone suspension powered by electrical hub-motors and many electrical components to keep everything running. The rover has theoritical top speed of 3.6 km/h on the lunar surface, but its stability, maneuverability and traction are more important.

Audi lunar quattro Front Branding

A group of ten employees from Audi is currently helping the team make the rover better: Adding magnesium and other lightweight materials to replace the current alumimium parts to make the rover lighter, testing and improving the rovers' off-roading capabilities by using lessons learnt in the company's e-quattro program, improving the efficiency and durability of the electrical systems and putting the rover through tough testing conditions in the climate-controlled faclities owned by the company.
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