Astrobiotic Plans Robotic Lunar Mission to Apollo 11 Site

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  Space News Business

Astrobiotic Plans Robotic Lunar Mission to Apollo 11 Site

By BRIAN BERGER
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 04 November 2008
05:03 pm ET






WASHINGTON

Astrobotic
Technology, the first company to publicly announce its intention to compete for the $200 million Google Lunar X Prize, unveiled plans Oct. 30 for a series of robotic expeditions to build a lunar data library useful to scientists and space agencies alike.

Astrobotic
President David Gump made the announcement in
Cape Canaveral
,
Fla.
, at the annual combined meeting of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group, the Space Resources Roundtable and the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group.

According to Gump, an entrepreneurial space pioneer whose past ventures include producing the first television commercial filmed aboard the international space station, Astrobotic’s first lunar expedition will send a robotic rover to Apollo 11’s Sea of Tranquility landing site in May 2010 to collect information of its proposed lunar data library, while also attempting to win the Google Lunar X Prize.

Google
and the X Prize Foundation have offered a $200 million prize to the first private team to land on the Moon and broadcast high-definition video back to Earth while completing a 500-meter traverse of the lunar surface.

Astrobotic will robotically explore the Moon’s high-interest areas on a commercial basis, collecting information required to design future outposts and to answer scientific questions about the Moon and Earth,” Gump said. “Our data library also will point the way to utilizing lunar energy and mineral resources to lower the cost of exploration and eventually supply markets on Earth.”

The company posted a white paper on its lunar data library project on its Web site. Gump said Astrobotic is looking for the world’s space agencies, aerospace firms, university researchers and others to identify the data packages that are the highest priority for them.

Gump said Astrobotic plans to sell licenses to agencies, companies and researchers wishing to access the library under a business model similar to software firms.

“Licensing also is used by seismic firms to provide data to oil companies,” Gump told Space News.

Astrobotic
also aims to bring in revenue through media and sponsorship deals and by carrying payloads to the Moon. The company is field-testing rover prototypes at
Carnegie
Mellon
University
in
Pittsburgh
under the leadership of robotics expert William “Red” Whitaker, Astrobotic’s chairman. Astrobotic’s teammates include Raytheon and the
University
of
Arizona
,
Tucson
.

Astrobotic
is one of 14 teams registered to compete for the Google Lunar X Prize, according to Bretton Alexander, the X Prize Foundation’s executive director for space prizes.

Alexander spoke at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee’s Oct. 30 meeting here to update members on the Google Lunar X Prize.

He told the committee that the X Prize Foundation has four letters of intent in addition to the 14 registered teams. Although the bulk of the teams are headquartered in theUnited States, the prize also has attracted teams based in the Isle of ManItaly,Malaysia, andRomania, Alexander said.