German car manufacturer Audi is one of the leaders in the automotive industry in terms of quality and innovations. However, it seems that company now is reaching even further. Audi announced that it will partner with Part-Time Scientists team in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition to transport an unmanned rover onto the moon. The landing site for the rover is planned to be the old landing site of Apollo 17, which was the last manned mission to the moon 45 years ago.
Audi is supporting the Part-Time Scientists team with its technological know-how. Company will help in many fields from quattro all-wheel drive technology and lightweight construction to electric mobility and piloted driving. Luca de Meo, Audi Board Member for Sales and Marketing, said that it is very important for the company to sponsor projects like this, because “the concept of a privately financed mission to the moon is fascinating”. He also said that they want to encourage other companies to contribute to this project with their know-how.
Google Lunar XPRIZE is a worldwide competition for US$30 million. It was established to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low‑cost methods of robotic space exploration. Privately funded teams are challenged to place a robot on the moon’s surface and it has to explore at least 500 meters and transmits high‑definition video and images back to Earth.
At first there were 25 teams, but now competition is at its final round and there are only 15 teams from around the world – Brazil, Canada, Chile, Hungary, Japan, Israel, Italy, Malaysia and the United States. The Part‑Time Scientists is the only German team participating in the competition, which is why Audi is helping it with its technological know-how. This team has already achieved positive evaluations from the jury of aerospace experts and was rewarded with two Milestone Prizes.
Audi is helping the team with several of its technologies. It is providing its expertise from the fields of lightweight construction and e‑mobility – Audi has these technologies advances because of its racing and electric cars. Car manufacturer will also help Part-Time Scientists with quattro permanent all‑wheel drive and with piloted driving.
Audi has time to perfect its all-wheel drive technology during numerous years in rallying and it also is moving on rapidly with its autonomous car technology. Audi will also provide wide‑ranging assistance in testing, trials and quality assurance. The rover will be named “Audi lunar quattro” to honour company for its assistance in development of the project.
It is planned that this rover will be launched into space at 2017. It will have to travel more than 380,000 kilometres to the moon, the trip will take about five days. The landing area was chosen near the 1972 landing site of the Apollo 17, NASA’s last manned mission to the moon, north of the moon’s equator. Conditions in this area are pretty extreme, as temperatures fluctuate by up to 300 degrees Celsius.
To prepare the rover for such conditions, the Part-Time Scientists team developed their vehicle during various rounds of testing undertaken in locations such as the Austrian Alps and Tenerife. The rover itself is largely made of aluminium and it’s powered by a lithium‑ion battery, charged by an adjustable solar panel. Captured solar power is used to power four electric wheel hub motors. At the front of the rover there is a head, which carries two stereoscopic cameras as well as a scientific camera that examines materials. Even though theoretically maximum speed of the “Audi lunar quattro” is 3.6 km/h, its off-road capabilities and abilities to orientate safely are more important and this is why Audi’s technological assistance is so crucial for the project.