Canada Looking to Make Bionic Contributions to Future Moon Flights

Canadian-built eyes could guide lunar rovers
Canada.com

“When NASA returns to the moon, Canadian-built eyes could show its lunar rovers where to drive.

“A team from Ottawa’s Neptec Design Group, a NASA prime contractor, has just returned from two weeks of testing its new guidance system in Hawaii.

So far, the news is good. Neptec’s laser system steered a lunar rover around the barren slopes and sharp rocks 275 metres up the side of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano.”

Robotics might be Canada’s ticket to moon
Canada.com

A new super-Canadarm that’s already on the drawing board could be some lucky Canadian astronaut’s ticket for a ride to the moon.

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Eight teams taking up ESA’s Lunar Robotics Challenge

ESA PRESS RELEASE
2 July 2008

As interest in exploration of the Moon soars among the world’s space agencies, ESA, through its General Studies Programme, has challenged university students to develop a robotic vehicle that is capable of working in difficult terrain, comparable to that found at the lunar poles. Eight university teams have been selected to proceed to the design stage of ESA’s Lunar Robotics Challenge.

ESA’s first Lunar Robotics Challenge got under way in late March with the issuing of an Announcement of Opportunity that invited teams of university students to create an innovative, mobile robot capable of retrieving samples from a lunar-like crater.

Eight of the submitted proposals have been selected for funding after evaluation by a team of ESA experts. The selected student teams received the go-ahead to design their robotic systems, and eventually build them to compete in the challenge event.

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Dextre installed and activated on ISS

Engineers have successfully installed and activated the International Space Station’s new Dextre robot, ABC News reports. Engineers solved an earlier power problem that they linked to a faulty circuit.

The Canadian-built Dextre is a sophisticated robot that will perform maintenance and other tasks on the space station’s interior that are now performed by astronauts. Astronauts aboard the orbiting laboratory and engineers on the ground will be able to control the robot by remote control.

Planetary Society Announces Winners of Asteroid Tracking Competition

The Planetary Society has announced the winners of a competition to design a spacecraft that could intercept and track asteroids that might impact on Earth.

The Society awarded the $25,000 first-place prize to a team led by Spaceworks Engineering of Atlanta and SpaceDev of Poway, California. The team’s $137 million Foresight mission focuses primarily on tracking an asteroid.

Spaceworks and SpaceDev are hoping to launch Foresight between 2012-2014 to rendezvous with asteroid 2004 MN4, also known as Apophis. The asteroid will pass close to the Earth in 2029 and has a slight chance of striking our planet in 2036.

Scotland Joins the Google X Prize Moon Race

A group at Glasgow University in Scotland has announced plans to join the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize competition. The group, lead by Dr. Gianmarco Radice, put out a call for partners last Friday, according to the Sunday Herald.

“We are looking for partners to join us – we can definitely get to the moon,” he said. “It is very expensive though, so it’s more a prestige thing than an economic investment. It would be quite a PR stunt, to say the least.”

Ten teams are already competing for the prize, which requires landing rover on the lunar surface by 2012.

Private Race to the Moon Takes Off

Ten teams are now competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE challenge, the race to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon.

The X Prize Foundation revealed that nine additional teams had joined the competition during a press conference this week at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. “It’s not just a new mission,” said X Prize CEO Peter Diamandis announced. “It’s a new way of doing business.”

The 10 teams are:

Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association (ARCA): Based in Valcea, Romania and led by Dumitru Popescu, ARCA was also a contender in the Ansari X PRIZE.

Astrobotic: Team Astrobotic, led by Dr. William “Red” Whittaker, was formed to coordinate the efforts of Carnegie Mellon University, Raytheon Company and additional institutions.

Chandah: Chandah, meaning “Moon” in Sanskrit, was founded by Adil Jafry, an energy industry entrepreneur. He is now chairman and CEO of Tara, the largest independent retail electricity provider in Texas.

FREDNET: Headed by Fred J. Bourgeois III, this multi-national team is comprised of systems, software, and hardware developers who serve as the leaders and overall coordinators of an international group of Open Source developers, engineers, and scientists.

LunaTrex: Led by Pete Bitar, LunaTrex is comprised of several individuals, companies, and universities from all over the United States, some of whom were also competitors for the Ansari X PRIZE.

Micro-Space: Helmed by Richard Speck and based in Colorado, Micro-Space, Inc. has a 31-year history of producing world class, high tech products.

Odyssey Moon: The first team to register for the competition, Odyssey Moon is a private commercial lunar enterprise headquartered in the Isle of Man and founded by Dr. Robert Richards.

Quantum3: A U.S.-based team, Quantum3 is led by Paul Carliner, a senior executive in the aerospace industry.

Southern California Selene Group: According to team leader Harold Rosen, the approach taken by the Santa Monica Selene Group can be succinctly summarized as “an elegantly simple design that is relatively inexpensive to implement.”

Team Italia: Based in Italy and led by Prof. Amalia Ercoli-Finzi, Team Italia is a collaboration between several universities. The team is currently running a prototype of its system at Politecnico di Milano.

X Prize has full details about the competitors on its website. Space.com has a comprehensive story.