Audi has put together a team of crack scientists and engineers to manufacture a lunar rover and enter Google’s XPrize Foundation space competition to put a robotic vehicle on Earth’s cosmic neighbour, a project that encapsulates its ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ slogan.
Audi has teamed up with a group of engineers dubbed ‘The Part-Time Scientists’, and will use its vehicular technologies – spanning lightweight construction methods (using magnesium in the build), piloted driving and Quattro all-wheel drive – to inform the project.
The Audi Concept Design Studio in Munich is revising the Rover, which will soon be renamed the ‘Audi Lunar Quattro’.
Google’s $30m Google Lunar XPrize is aimed at inspiring engineers and entrepreneurs to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. The winning team must design and build a lunar rover that can be placed on the moon, explore and send HD video back to Earth.
Most the of the Rover’s components are made from high-strength aluminium, and it will use solar cells as its main source of energy, with a compact lithium-ion battery powering a 500-metre drive on the Moon’s surface.
Two cameras mounted on the rover’s front will send detailed 3D images back to Earth, while a third camera will study lunar materials.
The plan is to launch the lunar vehicle into space in 2017, with the vehicle hitching a ride on the Dnepr Rocket, travelling 380,000km at up to 7.8kps.
The landing site is situated north of the Moon’s equator, near to the landing site of Nasa’s last manned mission – 1972’s Apollo 17.
Audi has produced a video explaining the ambitious project. While the automotive’s mission is clearly very impressive, the video voiceover artist falls victim to an extreme case of portentous-itis, declaring, “The Moon. Our closest neighbour in the Solar System. And yet it has always seemed distant. And unreachable… Until now.”
Audi’s dedicated microsite carries a number of other videos explaining the project.