Astrobotic Signs Chile’s Team AngelicvM to 2017 Google Lunar XPrize Attempt

Griffin Lander Above Lunar Skylight Credit: Astrobotic

Griffin Lander Above Lunar Skylight
Credit: Astrobotic

There is an interesting trend developing with the $20 million dollar Google Lunar XPrize. Earlier this year, Pittsburgh, PA. based Astrobotics, which hopes to develop regular deliver service to the Moon, announced that it has signed an agreement with the sole Japanese entry, Team Hakuto, to transport that team’s twin rovers to the Moon along with its own, aboard the company’s Griffin lander.

The announcement set the stage for a possible first ever race on the Moon, as both companies intend to compete for the contest’s 500 meter distance prize. That prize would go to the first entrant to travel 500 meters from the original landing site and successfully transmit two sets of video images back to Earth. Now, a third team, AngelicvM of Chile, will be joining the effort as well. Contest rules allow for a second place, $5 million dollar award to go to a team which accompanies the Grand Prize winner to surface.

The announcement came from Astrobotic, which has yet to actually book the launch which would now carry at least three competitors. Plans call for that launch to take place aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, with the timing now set for late 2017 as the Google Lunar XPrize nears its recently extended deadline of December 31st of that year. All three teams, Astrobotic, Hakuto and AngelicvM have gained some breathing room thanks to the efforts of Israel’s SpaceIL, which triggered a one year extension for everyone when it became the first to officially book a launch and have it confirmed by the X-Prize officials. Another American team, Moon Express, announced that its had signed a launch contract with Rocket Lab before SpaceIL, but four weeks later, that contract has apparently still not been verified.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Google Lunar X-Prize as it heads towards the finish line is the vastly different makeup and motives of the teams which appear to be in the running. While commercially oriented Astrobotics is intent on establishing regular delivery service and plans a sprint for the cash with its Andy rover, Team Hakuto is more focused on exploration. Its entry consists of two linked rovers, the 4 wheeled Moonraker and the 2 wheeled Tetris, which will be used to search for and hopefully explore the “skylight” entry to lunar caverns which exist in the planned landing area. Upon approaching the entrance, Moonraker would lower Tetris by cable for exploration of the floor below. If that doesn’t risky enough, consider the name of the landing area, Lacus Mortis, Latin for “Lake of Death.”

Closeup of Lunar Skylight Credit: NASA

Closeup of Lunar Skylight
Credit: NASA

For those looking for divine inspiration for such a foreboding destination, the latest entry may be a source of comfort. If Team AngelicvM makes it to the Moon alongside its fellow competitors, its mission will be of a somewhat different nature. The hope is that its “Uni” rover will win the prize, but almost as importantly broadcast a message of “faith, hope, peace and unity” back to planet Earth.


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1 Comment on "Astrobotic Signs Chile’s Team AngelicvM to 2017 Google Lunar XPrize Attempt"

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  1. PK Sink says:

    Getting to the Moon is easy compared to getting to peace and unity. Can you imagine spending eight months in a tiny spaceship heading to Mars with your co-workers or neighbors? I’d brain ’em for sure.

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