Science and engineering
Chile’s first lunar rover nears completion
The robot has been built as part of the Google Lunar X Prize, an international race to get the first privately funded robot to the Moon.
Friday, January 04, 2013
Dandelion has solar panels that can capture energy even if it’s flipped over. Photo via Team AngelicvM/Facebook.
A small robot named Dandelion is set to become Chile’s very first lunar rover to reach the Moon’s soil.
Dandelion is a project of Team AngelicvM, the only Chilean team competiting in the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition. This global competition is offering US$30 million in prizes - the largest international prize incentive of all time - to the first privately funded robotics team to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon, travel 152 feet (500 mt) over the lunar surface, and send data and images back to Earth.
Since December 2010, Team AngelicvM and 24 other teams from around the world have been fundraising, mission planning, and building their robots. The teams have until 2015 to get to the moon.
The goal of the competition is to stimulate the private sector’s participation in the space economy - an industry that has historically been left up to government management.
Team AngelicvM is a project of Inversiones Angelicvm Ltda., a private company pioneering aerospace development in Chile. Universidad Austral de Chile in Puerto Montt was invited to create the lunar rover, and the Universidad de Concepción is developing the engine that will be used in lunar orbit. Many other individuals are also voluntarily contributing their time to the collaborative effort.
According to Mauricio Henriquez, chief of rover development from Universidad Austral de Chile, the rover Dandelion is nearly complete.
“We’re in the final development stage with the robot, which is fully able to stand up to the demands of outer space,” Henriquez told The Santiago Times. “It could be ready to go in mid-2014.”
Further linking Chile to this unique competition is that fact that the country has recently been selected to host the next international gathering of the Google Lunar X PRIZE in April 2013. The Chilean capital beat out applications from Greece and Japan because of the country’s deep connection to astronomy, according to Jennifer Sisemore of the X PRIZE Foundation.
"It was a very difficult decision because all the finalists had great qualities, but ultimately we chose Santiago de Chile, particularly for its work in astronomy and the possibility of using the Atacama Desert as a test for the rovers,” she said in a press release.