Carnegie Mellon & Astrobotic to build MoonRanger rovers for NASA

NASA has awarded a $5.6 million contract to the university and a space robotics company to build a fast, speedy moon rover.


NSFW    WASHINGTON — Carnegie Mellon University and Astrobotic, a space robotics company, have been awarded a $5.6 million contract by NASA to build a small, speedy lunar rover called MoonRanger.

According to Astrobotic, the autonomous rover will weigh only 13 kilograms and could land on the moon by 2021 or 2022.

MoonRanger will be the size of a suitcase. It will be taken to the moon via Astrobotics' lunar lander Peregrine. The robot will operate autonomously on weeklong missions within 1 kilometer of its lander while on the moon, according to press releases by NASA and Carnegie Mellon.

It could search the moon's polar regions for ice or lunar pits and produce detailed 3D maps of the moon's terrain.

Data gathered by MoonRanger will be relayed back to our planet via a radio once the rover returns to its lander. This is because the rover is too small and is unable to carry a radio powerful enough to communicate with earth.

MoonRanger is one of 12 proposals selected by NASA as part of its Lunar Surface and Instrumentation and Technology Payload program. It is scheduled to head to the moon via NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services project.

NASA says these projects would allow the U.S. space agency to get a better understanding of the moon and explore more of its surface as NASA prepares for its Artemis moon mission in 2024.
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