Getting Closer to Our Next Lunar Mission

The Celestis Luna Service reaches out to Earth’s nearest neighbor for a uniquely compelling location to remember a special life.  Celestis has an agreement with Astrobotic Technology, Inc. to launch a payload containing human cremated remains to the surface of the Moon as soon as 2013. Astrobotic reached a major milestone in June by assembling its lunar lander at Carnegie Mellon University and shipping it to a shake testing facility in California.

Astrobotic Lunar Lander

The Astrobotic Lunar Lander

Earlier this year Astrobotic signed a contract with SpaceX to launch Astrobotic’s robotic payload to the Moon on a Falcon 9 launch vehicle.  Astrobotic’s expedition will search for water and deliver payloads – including Celestis’ – with the Astrobotic robot narrating its adventure while sending 3-D video to Earth.  Liftoff could occur as soon as December 2013.

The Astrobotic Team

Members of the Astrobotic team that assembled the lunar lander, posing by the lander before the lander was shipped to California for shake testing.

The Falcon 9 upper stage will sling Astrobotic on a four-day cruise to the Moon.   Astrobotic will then orbit the moon to align for landing.  The spacecraft will land softly, precisely and safely using technologies pioneered by Carnegie Mellon University for guiding autonomous cars.  The rover will explore for three months, operate continuously during the lunar days, and hibernate through the lunar nights.  The lander will sustain payload operations with generous power and communications.

“The mission is the first of a serial campaign,” said Dr. William “Red” Whittaker, chairman of Astrobotic Technology and founder of the university’s Field Robotics Center. “Astrobotic’s missions will pursue new resources, deliver rich experiences, serve new customers and open new markets.   Spurred further by incentives, contracts, and the Google Lunar X PRIZE, this is a perfect storm for new exploration.”

Lunar Lander Assembly Video

Time lapse video that covers the second week of lander work, which includes both assembly and preparation for shipping.

“The moon has economic and scientific treasures that went undiscovered during the Apollo era, and our robot explorers will spearhead this new lunar frontier,” said David Gump, president of Astrobotic Technology.   “The initial mission will bank up to $24 million in Google’s Lunar X PRIZE, Florida’s $2 million launch bonus, and NASA’s $10 million landing contract while delivering 240 pounds of payload for space agencies and corporate marketers.”

In addition to Carnegie Mellon, where several prototypes have been built and tested, the mission is supported by industrial partners such as International Rectifier Corporation and corporate sponsors such as Caterpillar Inc. and ANSYS Inc.

Astrobotic Lander and Rover

Model of the Astrobotic Lander and Rover

About Astrobotic Technology

Astrobotic(TM) expeditions deliver payloads, scientific instruments and engineering experiments to the moon for space agencies, academic researchers and the media/marketing industries.  NASA awarded the company a $10 million contract in 2010 for access to the expedition’s engineering data on lunar landing technologies.  The company also has a NASA assignment to design a lunar mining robot to recover the frozen volatiles at the poles, which can be transformed into propellant to refuel spacecraft for their return to Earth.  Other expeditions will explore “skylight” holes and lunar caves as havens from temperature extremes, radiation exposure and micrometeorite bombardment.  Astrobotic also plans a robot to circle the moon, outrunning lunar sundown and avoiding the immobilizing cold of the two-week night.  More information is available at  www.astrobotic.net.

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