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Meet Lunar Quattro: An Audi that's headed for the moon


IT MIGHT look like one of those primitive dog-robots that follows you about the house, but this is in fact Audi's new moon-conquering lunar rover.

It's a bizarre notion I know, a motor manufacturer entering the 'space race' nearly 50 years after the first man walked on the moon. So here's a bit of background.

It's all part of a competition called Google Lunar XPrize, a contest in which Google is promoting us Earth-dwellers to put things back on the moon. In order to win, teams have to send a privately funded rover up into space, land it on the moon, travel 500 meters, and then transmit high definition images and video back to Earth. Oh and there's a $20million cheque waiting for the first lot to complete the task.

So, back to Audi's little buggy. Dubbed the Lunar Quattro, it's a 35kg 3D-printed moon car made of titanium and high-strength aluminium. Supposedly fitted with Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system, the wheels rotate 360 degrees to allow it to crab its way across the moon's undulating, rutted surface with confidence.

Powering the little rover are four wheel-mounted hub motors, fed electricity from a lithium-ion battery that's charged by a swivelling solar panel which tracks the sun. It's capable of a face-bending 3.5km/h top speed.

Two cameras in the head of the rover gather 3D images of the vehicle's surroundings, while a third is used to study materials and produce high-resolution panoramic images that can be beamed down from space to satisfy the lot at Google.

The real geeks behind the project have dubbed themselves the 'Part-Time Scientists' - Audi are the team's financial backers and of course are supplying the much needed wheels. All this excitement has no doubt greatly improved morale at Audi's HQ in Ingolstadt - in fact you can just picture all those thick-rimmed spectacles burning the midnight (and weekend) oil on this extramural activity.

Lunar Quattro was let loose at the Detroit Motor Show to scamper about the place like a lost puppy in an attempt to stir up some publicity. I'm sure the next time we'll see it will be on the Moon - soon too as verified launch contracts have to be completed by the end of the year, while all missions must be completed by the end of 2017.

Article written by Miles Downard
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