The XPrize Lunar Rover Botball Design Challenge
The Xprize foundation wants to incite a private sector space race where private companies and small groups of individuals compete in space exploration instead of governments. In order to do so, they have posted a prize for the first person to land an autonomous robot on the moon that meets certain criteria that are listed on the Xprize foundation’s website. (http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/lunar/competition/guidelines) Our goal is to design that robot.
Our robot, if someone were to take it the next step and take it off the page, will be able to move in the harsh lunar conditions as well as document its success with pictures and videos to be sent back to earth. In order to compile our design, some of our botball team has done some research into what exactly our robot needs to withstand, and worked those requirements into the design. Please look on and enjoy as we describe to you why our robot could be a competitor for the XPrize is given a chance.
[insert design picture ]
The first requirement for our robot is that it land successfully on the moon. When considering this, we decided it could be delivered in a kind of pod, which can bee seen beneath the robot in our schematic above. If attached to the head of a missle and equipped with rockets and padding, this pod could deliver the robot safely, opening up when it stopped movement and allowing the robot to move on to its next mission.
[ design of pod ]
The next goal of the robot is to move around the lunar surface, at least 500 meters. In this spirit we have included relatively large wheels for our robot to pull it through the fine lunar dust. The tread of these wheels would be specifically designed for the lunar surface, much as the lunar rover module for the astronauts of the Apollo missions was. With just the right enough of torque, we should be able to maximize the power consumption of the motors for these wheels.
[ tread of lunar rover wheels ]
The final goal of this robot is to take pictures and video of the lunar landscape and of the robot itself. The XPrize foundation is specific in these goals, requiring a 360 degree picture of the landscape, a picture of the robot on the moon, and high definition (HD) video of it moving on the moon. In order to do so, our robot has been designed with a rotating camera at the top, capable of capturing the robot’s entire view of the moon. Another camera is mounted onto a retractable arm, to be extended for the self portrait. This camera will be capable of both still photographs and HD video, fulfilling the final two guidelines of the XPrize challenge.
[ design of a camera ]
In order to qualify for the XPrize, the robot needs to survive lunar conditions and send back the information it collects. To do so we have provided an outer casing around the sensitive electronics wrapped in foil to deflect radiation from space that make their way to the moon surface because of its lack of atmosphere. Solar panels along this outer casing provide the power for motors, cameras, and computer processing. Finally, once the computer has collected and processed all the information, it is sent back to earth via satellite using its antenna.
[ antenna or something ]
The robot will carry out all these functions according to its own internal programming, so that it does not need any interface with earth. Where possible, we imagine using lightweight metals and polymers to reduce this robot’s mass such as aluminum. The computer will take up most of the robots mass with a hard drive large enough to store at least two gigabytes of data and a processor fast enough to work with modern technology like HD and digital images.
[ possible robot CPU or circuit board ]
As part of the botball challenge, we are also asked to choose a time and place to land our robot. According to the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) website, the south pole of the moon holds the greatest potential for scientific discovery. As the temperatures vary greatly on the lunar surface between night and day (between XXX degrees Celsius and –XXX degrees Celsius) the fact that the south pole remains mostly in the dark was another factor we took into consideration. The body of the robot would contain insulation for any devices sensitive to the extreme cold, and lights have been affixed to the sides of the robot. These lights would only turn on when the robot is taking it first round of pictures and video to conserve power and to allow the robot to take another set without the lights to examine the difference, if there is any.