Audi Moon Rover Set To Fly To The Moon In 2017 — Google’s Lunar XPrize Heating Up With Just 16 Finalists

Carmaker Audi is speeding towards completion of a rover that will be sent to the moon in 2017. The Lunar Quattro rover, being built for Berlin-based engineering group Part-Time Scientists, is part of Google Lunar XPRIZE competition.

German automaker Audi is in the final stages of completing its first ever robot that will most likely roll on the moon’s surface next year, reports Tech Mic. The manufacturer is expected to hand over the final prototype to Part-Time Scientists, which is one of just 34 companies who are vying for the much-coveted Google’s Lunar XPRIZE. At last week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, German automaker Audi debuted a brand new lunar rover. It has been named as Audi Lunar Quattro because the robot makes extensive use of the company’s famous Quattro all-wheel-drive system.

While the rover is made of high-strength aluminum, the most notable aspect of the development is that most of the critical components of the rover have been 3D-printed. The rapid-prototyping and 3D-printing technologies have allowed Audi to shave off a lot of time from design to deployment. According to Part-Time Scientists, design and manufacturing took just a little over five months. The assembly process, that started about three months back, is still going on.

Made of light-weight, but durable and sturdy aluminum, the Lunar Quattro rover currently weighs just 77.2 pounds. Interestingly, the company expects the rover to shed some weight. Despite the fact that a ready-to-roll prototype, named ALQ-01 is being upgraded to be equipped for all the upcoming tests it has to endure, its makers are confident the rover will shave off a few ounces, if not pounds, as they increasingly integrate magnesium into the design.

Despite its simplistic looks, Audi’s rover packs a lot of electronics and sensors, besides possessing the ability to navigate its way on the lunar surface. Some of its notable features include two stereo cameras capable of snapping high resolution imagery. They can rotate 360 degrees for taking amazing panoramic photos. An additional advancement in the photography department is the ability to capture the moon’s surface in 3D, which is going to help researchers back on earth study materials in never before seen detail.

Audi, and its partner, currently face stiff competition from formidable challengers like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. According to Digital Trends, there are currently just 16 contestants that remain in the challenge. However, it is Audi’s rover that is expected to lift-off for the moon in 2017.

Once on the moon, the Lunar Quattro rover, controlled by a command center back here on earth, is expected to move 500 meters along the lunar surface, sending photos back to earth all along the way. That’s essentially the primary challenge for all participants in the Google’s Lunar XPRIZE competition. Beside the navigation and photography, the rover must endure its trip aboard a rocket traveling 236,121 miles to the moon and land in a target zone north of the equator of the moon. Incidentally, the chosen landing zone is quite close to where the Apollo 17 landed in 1972.

The rover’s theoretical top speed is a laughable 2.2 mph. Though it certainly sounds like a snail’s pace, the competition isn’t about speed, but reliability. On the harsh and unpredictable lunar surface, there’s no team of qualified technicians to fix anything that might, and generally does, go wrong. The lunar rover will have to safely navigate on the lunar surface, with only its solar panels to offer power. The much touted Quattro all-wheel-drive system will impart the rover with off-road qualities that are direly needed in comparison to speed.

According to Tech Times, a team of 10 Audi employees hand-picked from across several different technical departments and the company’s huge talent pool, have been assigned to assist the Part-Time Scientists. These engineers are expected to share their expertise on the company’s revolutionary electrical e-tron drive system and the Quattro permanent all-wheel system.

[Photo by Audi]