Send Your Momentos to the Moon with Astrobotic’s MoonMail

Griffin Lander. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)
Griffin Lander. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)

PITTSBURGH, PA, Dec. 11, 2014 (Astrobotic PR) – In time for the holiday and gift giving season, Astrobotic Technology Inc. announced the launch of MoonMail™, a program for the public to send mementos to the Moon on Astrobotic’s first commercial lunar mission. With the starting price at $460, this exciting new offering from Astrobotic is an opportunity to commemorate major life events – graduations, weddings, birthdays, a loved one’s memory – with a lasting symbol on the Moon.

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China to Land Lunar Rover Around 2013

China plans to launch third unmanned moon probe around 2013
Xinhua

China plans to launch its third unmanned probe to the moon, Chang’e-3, around 2013 and expects to complete the three-phase moon mission in 2017, an official said here Wednesday.

The remarks by Ye Peijian, chief designer of Chang’e-1, the country’s first moon probe, and chief commander of Chang’e-2 and Chang’e-3, followed presentations by two space exploration experts last week.

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China Reports Progress on Lunar Rover – Updated

The Xinhua news agency reports that Shanghai engineers have built and tested three prototypes of lunar rovers in advance of a planned 2013 landing.

“The Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology had made significant progress in key technologies for the locomotion system,” Xinhau reports.

You can see a picture of one prototype here. The 1.5-meter tall, 200-kilogram rover is designed to travel at an average speed of 100 meters per hour.

ESA Eyes Lunar South Pole for Rover

The BBC has an interesting story about the European Space Agency’s MoonNext effort, which is designed to land a robotic rover on the lunar surface in 2015.

ESA’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Bernard Foing, says the spacecraft could land at the moon’s south pole. The south pole is considered a likely spot for a human base because it may possess water ice under the surface.

ESA is currently conducting engineering studies on various options. The space agency will present a detailed plan to ministers in November.

Odyssey Moon Releases RFI for Moon Payload

Odyssey Moon, one of the competitors in the Google Lunar X Prize, is looking for payloads to fly to the lunar surface. It has issued a request for information “to identify potential payloads and Principal Investigators (PIs) who wish to explore rapid, low-cost lunar flight opportunities.” The payloads must be 15 to 25 kilograms (33 to 55 lbs.)

The company hopes to land its MoonOne spacecraft on the lunar surface in July 2011 in order to claim the $30 million prize. The lander is set to be first of a series of spacecraft the company will send to the Moon.

You can read the full RFI on its website. Odyssey Moon Limited is a private company based in the Isle of Man.

SEDS Launches Lunar Rover Design Competition

The Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) has announced a lunar rover competition. The goal is to “design a miniature lunar rover that can be used to assist a human mission to the Moon in locating a suitable place to build a longterm habitat (i.e., not a lunar rover for passengers like this, but a small lunar rover like this). The Rover will accompany the human mission and have the capability to operate either autonomously or under human control. This allows data collection for potential habitat sites to be collected while humans are occupied with other tasks.”

The maximum weight is 15 kilograms (33 lbs.). The competition is being sponsored by UKSEDS and the American Astronautical Society. To learn more, visit the SEDS website here.

From Dune Buggy to Truck? NASA Redefines the Lunar Rover

NASA designers are looking into new concepts for human lunar rovers that are more reminiscent of pickup trucks than the dune buggy type vehicles used by the Apollo astronauts, Florida Today reports.

“It is definitely inspired by the truck,” said Lucien Junkin, a Johnson Space Center robotics engineer who is serving as lead designer.

NASA is leaning toward a 6-wheel vehicle, based in part on the success of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars. The two additional wheels allow for more maneuverability on rough terrain.

Astronomy.com also has an article with photos.