New "Polaris" Robot Prototype Will Drill Moon for Lunar Ice
October 10, 2012 9:01 PM
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(Source: Astrobotic Technology Inc.)
Eventually, Astrobotic sees Polaris launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida on top of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets
A new robot prototype that is capable of drilling lunar ice seeks to win the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize.
Astrobotic, Carnegie Mellon University's (CMU) sector for space robotics technology, is responsible for the new robot "Polaris." Polaris is the first rover designed to drill lunar ice, and this function could lead to
water, oxygen and fuel sources
for future space missions.
Polaris is 5 1/2 feet tall, 8 feet long and 7 feet wide. Once completed, it will weigh about 330 pounds and will be made of light composite materials like carbon fiber and Kevlar. These materials will help keep Polaris safe during freezing nights. It is a flight prototype, but will also
act as a land rover
that can travel the moon's surface with wheels.
A major component of Polaris is the drill, which, combined with the science payload, will weigh just over 150 pounds. The drill is capable of digging about one meter
into the lunar surface
, and Astrobotic believes Polaris can drill about 10 to 100 holes within a 10 lunar day period (a lunar day lasts about 14 Earth days) depending on the location of ice spots.
Astrobotic's latest creation will be solar-powered via three large solar arrays, which are situated vertically to collect light from low on the horizon (since the robot must search close to the dark poles for ice). These solar arrays can provide an average of 250 watts of electrical power, and Polaris will use CMU software for positioning in regards to light.
Astrobotic hopes Polaris wins the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize, which would lead to a completed version of Polaris. Eventually, Astrobotic sees Polaris launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida on top of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets.
SpaceX is the hero of American space transport right now, as it just successfully attached to the International Space Station (ISS) this morning for its first official cargo run under a $1.6 billion NASA contract. Its Falcon 9 rocket launched the unmanned Dragon capsule from Cape Canaveral this past Sunday evening.
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