Solar power doesn’t have to be limited to Earth-based gadgets — at least, not if Carnegie Mellon roboticist Dr. William Whittaker has anything to say about it. Whitaker and Astrobiotic Technology have teamed up to develop a solar rover prototype that will explore the Apollo moon landing site and find out how materials used in the mission have fared over all these years.
The rover, which has been entered in the competition for the $25 million Google Lunar X Prize, features two motors in the hub of each wheel, a flat radiator tilted up to the sky on one side, and a half-cone of solar generators on the other side to power the wheels, run computers, and beam stereo HD video back to us on Earth.
There’s just one problem left to figure out: how to protect the rover from minus 240 F lunar nights. The team is experimenting with different ways to package lithium ion batteries to be able to function after two weeks of exposure to air that is nearly as cold as liquid nitrogen. Stay tuned to find out the results of the team’s experiments when the solar rover lands on the Apollo moon site in 2011!