Solar-Powered Moon Rover to Explore Apollo Landing Site

by , 07/22/09

astrobiotic technology sustainable design, green design, solar rover, moon, apollo, google, space

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.

astrobiotic technology sustainable design, green design, solar rover, moon, apollo, google, space

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!

+ Astrobiotic Technology

Via Boing Boing Gadgets

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  1. rayajames December 2, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Hello solar fans give us some info at

  2. homework girl August 4, 2009 at 5:45 am

    i want to go to out of space
    p.s this is for my home work

  3. joshuayoshida July 23, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    I wonder why we are willing to do solar powered rovers, and yet there so little support for solar power here on the Earth!

  4. Alastair Mayer July 23, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    In 1970 and 1973 the Soviets landed their Lunokhod solar-powered robotic rovers on the Moon. Lunokhod 1 lasted for 11 months and covered 10.5 kilometers, Lunokhod 2 only lasted 4 months but covered 37 km. So this is 40 year old technology we’re talking about.

    Incidentally, Richard Garriot (son of astronaut Owen Garriot and a computer gaming entrepreneur) purchased Lunokhod 2 from the Russians in 1993. It’s location is precisely known via laser rangefinding. As the only private owner of an object on another celestial body, he’s claimed the Moon. 😉

  5. devilbile July 23, 2009 at 2:53 am

    How do they propose to keep the solar panels and camera lenses clean from moon dust that is kicked up from the rover moving?

  6. AlexTheApe July 22, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    The Apollo rovers were battery powered, by a pair of silver oxide batteries. Silver oxide still have near the best capacity/weight ratio, which is obviously good for Apollo, but they’re non-rechargeable and quite expensive.

  7. beezorphlegmon July 22, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    I hate to be hyper-critical, but all unmanned space vehicles since the first satellites were solar powered. The space program was one of the first uses of solar panels, and until recently, NASA did most of the solar research and development. Every single rover that has gone to mars and the moon has been solar powered. In addition, the International Space Station is powered completely by solar energy, as was the previous Russian Mir Space Station. The reason that thin film and other lower-grade inexpensive solar technologies are only recently beginning to appear is because NASA never had a need for these, because they need to get the maximum amount of energy out of the smallest volume and weight of the panels.

  8. July 22, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    there is no air on the moon.

  9. polymind July 22, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Wonder if the older rovers were also solar powered?

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