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Audi Enters Space Race With Moon Rover

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Audi is venturing into a mission to the moon, working alongside Google Lunar XPRIZE participant Part-Time Scientists to develop a moon rover.

Called the Audi lunar quattro, the moon rover is made of high-strength aluminum and weighs 77.2 pounds. It will be shaving off some of that weight, however, as it continues development and integrates the use of magnesium. Some of its features include a swiveling solar panel and four wheels that can rotate 360 degrees, as well as two stereo cameras capable of 3D imagery. A third camera will be in place for studying materials and producing high-resolution panoramic photos.

The Audi lunar quattro is rated with a theoretical maximum speed of 2.2 mph, which doesn't sound at all impressive but when you're up on the moon, safe navigating abilities and off-road qualities will be of better use to you than speed.

A team of 10 Audi employees from across different technical departments have been assigned to assist the Part-Time Scientists, sharing their expertise on the electrical e-tron drive system and the quattro permanent all-wheel system. Their goal is to further enhance the rover's performance by improving its battery, power electronics and electric motors. Additionally, Audi will be providing assistance for tests and quality assurance.

According to Google Lunar XPRIZE requirements, the rover must be able to drive at least half a kilometer across the moon and beam back high-resolution video footage and images to Earth. It must also be launched in space by 2017 on a rocket traveling 236,121 miles to the moon and land in a target zone north of the equator of the moon, close to where the Apollo 17 landed in 1972. The trip to the moon is estimated to take about five days and cost some $26.2 million.

So far, the Part-Time Scientists are doing well in the competition, winning two Milestone Prizes, each worth $750,000. They were given the award for developing the rover and its accompanying optical system. Founded by Robert Bohme, Part-Time Scientists is made up of more than 70 members across Austria and Germany. They are one of 16 groups (down from 34) remaining in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition.

Aside from Audi, the German Aerospace Center, the Austrian Space Forum, the Technical University of Berlin, NVIDIA and former NASA employee Jack Crenshaw also support the Part-Time Scientists.

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