Their proposal for Moon exploration, the Lunar Prospector rover, was unveiled this week at the Earth Mechanics Institute in Colorado, where it was subjected to its first field test in lunar regolith simulant.
The machine is a four-wheeled rover designed to search for and map the Moon’s natural resources like water, precious metals, and helium-3. It has a maximum weight of ten kg (22 pounds), fully loaded with five kg of samples.
Lunar Prospector was designed as a means to look for natural resources in situ, as opposed to the current method that implies scans from afar. The rover uses 3D printed wheels shaped like the paddle used on the steamers of old to move around in the dust of the Moon, while all-wheel drive and independent suspension allow it to keep moving and stay upright.
Made of aluminum and carbon fiber, the rover uses 360 degrees LIDAR and a 4K camera to record and accurately map the lunar surface, making it capable of navigating in complete darkness.
The rover’s builders say the machine is fully autonomous, so it essentially could be dropped on the Moon and let it do its thing until humans actually arrive and take over. If need be, the Lunar Prospector can also be remotely operated from the future Gateway lunar space station.
Lunar Outpost says its first mission to the Moon will be announced by the middle of next year.