University sets sights on Google's race-to-the-moon prize

University's robotics team wants to win the $20M first prize

Carnegie Mellon University is planning to enter and win the US$20 million first prize offered by Google and the X Prize Foundation for landing and operating a robot on the moon by 2012.

William "Red" Whittaker, the university's roboticist is assembling a team of individuals who have experience in launching spacecraft and landing payloads and who can conquer the engineering challenges of landing a spaceship on the moon, according to a statement.

The Google Lunar X Prize contest is open to private companies worldwide that want to try their hands at building and landing a privately funded spaceship on the moon by 2012. The spaceship would include a robotic land rover that must complete several missions, including roaming at least 500 meters and sending videos, images and data back to Earth. The $30 million in prize money is composed of a US$20 million grand prize, a US$5 million second prize and US$5 million in bonus prizes.

"Planetary exploration is a dream we pursue and a technology we create," said Whittaker, the Fredkin research professor in Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute, in the statement. "We have spent decades building and testing robotic technologies for just this purpose. We are also veterans of competitive technology challenges. These are the things we do, so combining lunar rovers with a competitive race to the moon is a great opportunity."

Whittaker and others at the university's Field Robotics Center have already developed several prototypes for field-testing planetary robotics technology on Earth, including the recently developed Scarab, produced for NASA, which will test robotic drilling technology suitable for finding underground ice and other resources that could be mined on the moon.

According to the statement, Whittaker has advocated landing a privately funded robot on the moon for more than 10 years. But he knows the challenges involved in such a pursuit.

"This is one where every detail counts," he said in the statement. "The moon will severely test robotic technology, even more so than Mars. At noon, it's hotter than boiling water and the lunar night stays colder than liquid nitrogen for two solid weeks."

However, Whittaker also understands the opportunities presented by the contest.

"This challenge is a thrilling thing for space exploration and a thrilling thing for robotics," Whittaker said. "It's inevitable that someone will find a way to win it. Regardless of who takes home the cash, this achievement will enrich us all."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Linda Rosencrance

Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?