NASA Invests in Tech Concepts Aimed at Exploring Lunar Craters, Mining Asteroids

Illustration of the Skylight mission concept, a 2019 NIAC Phase III. (Credits: William Whittaker, Carnegie Mellon University)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Robotically surveying lunar craters in record time and mining resources in space could help NASA establish a sustained human presence at the Moon – part of the agency’s broader Moon to Mars exploration approach. Two mission concepts to explore these capabilities have been selected as the first-ever Phase III studies within the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.


Astrobotic to Develop CubeRover Standard for Planetary Surface Mobility

CubeRover on the moon (Credit: Astrobotic)

PITTSBURGH, May 4, 2017 (Astrobotic PR) – Astrobotic, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, has been selected by NASA to develop CubeRover, a class of 2-kg rover platforms capable of small-scale science and exploration on planetary surfaces. The team will design a CubeRover capable of evaluating lunar lander ejecta and characterizing surface mobility. CubeRover will establish a new standard for small-scale surface-deployable science and exploration platforms.


Carnegie Mellon Unveils Rover for Google Lunar X Prize Competition

William "Red" Whittaker with Andy the lunar rover. (Credit: CMU)
William “Red” Whittaker with Andy the lunar rover. (Credit: CMU)

By Byron Spice
Carnegie Mellon Univesity

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University today unveiled Andy, a four-wheeled robot designed to scramble up steep slopes and survive the temperature swings and high radiation encountered while exploring the moon’s pits, caves and polar ice.

“Every extraterrestrial robot carries some DNA from Carnegie Mellon, but Andy would be the first true CMU robot to make the leap from Earth,” said William “Red” Whittaker, professor of robotics and director of the Field Robotics Center. “This is the culmination of lots of work by lots of people and is the next step toward Carnegie Mellon becoming a spacefaring university.”


Astrobotic to Develop Autonomous Landing Capability for Sample Return

Astrobotic lander (Credit: Mark Maxwell)
Astrobotic lander (Credit: Mark Maxwell)

Astrobotic Technology will develop the capability to perform autonomous, controlled landings on the Moon, Mars, and asteroids under the terms of a new Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Pittsburgh, PA (Astrobotic PR) — Future NASA and commercial missions will increasingly target destinations with challenging topography and limited communication, such as unmapped asteroids, surface rendezvous sites for sample return, and terrain features like polar peaks, crater rims, and skylights on Mars and the Moon. “These are worthy but unexplored destinations,” said William “Red” Whittaker, Astrobotic’s Chairman. “Smaller, less expensive robotic landers will precede human missions to such destinations, but they are less tolerant – even a small hazard such as a rock or slope could be fatal for a small lander. This class of missions demands precise autonomous hazard detection and landing.”


GLXP Upate: Astrobotic Competes in Milestone Awards, Outlines Lunar Landing Plans

A mission concept to enter and explore a skylight on the Moon using Tyrobot. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)
A mission concept to enter and explore a skylight on the Moon using Tyrobot. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)

Pittsburgh, PA (Astrobotic PR) — Astrobotic Technology announced today that it has advanced to the Accomplishment Round of the Milestone Prizes offered by the Google Lunar XPRIZE, qualifying the team to receive up to $1.75 million for reaching its objectives in three categories – Landing, Mobility, and Imaging.

In a major step toward one of those objectives, Astrobotic is testing its autonomous landing technology with a series of flights on a propulsive lander at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California this month. The flight campaign, which will test the guidance sensors for Astrobotic’s lunar lander, is made possible by a NASA Flight Opportunities Program award. Results will be posted on the Astrobotic website,, once they are available.


Astrobiotic’s “Red” Whittaker Elected to NAE for Pioneering Work


The nation’s most prestigious organization of engineering experts today announced the election of Dr. William “Red” Whittaker to its ranks. The National Academy of Engineering honored Dr. Whittaker, the chairman and chief technical officer of Astrobotic Technology Inc., for “pioneering contributions to fielded, mobile, autonomous robots.”


PopSci’s DIY Guide to X’ing Your Way to the Moon

Popular Science has an interesting DIY guide to how you – YES, YOU – can win the Google Lunar X Prize. It seems that all you need is a little bit of moxie, a rover that can survive extreme temperatures, a launcher, and…oh yes…somewhere between $20 to $100 million.

Simple, really. All too easy.

All kidding aside, it’s a really cool story that breaks down the major components that one needs succeed in winning the $20 million prize. There are quotes from Odyssey Moon CEO Bob Richards, Astrobiotic’s Red Whittaker, and other competitors.

Meanwhile, has a story on four additional teams that have joined the great race. The teams include Advaeros, out of Malaysia; JURBAN, which is focused teaching disadvantaged students to build robots; and STELLAR, a North Carolina group headed by Dick Dell. There is also a mystery team, which apparently has no connection to Scooby-Doo’s outfit, Mystery, Inc.