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Audi Sponsors Part Time Scientists’ Endeavor to Explore the Moon with 3D Printed Rover

by • January 10, 2016 • No Comments

rover-1024x898It’s been over 40 years since humans have been to the moon, but the thought of going back has been increasingly well-liked lately. It’s fundamentally a new space race: out of the most international space agencies and private companies talking of returning to the moon, who will in fact be the initial? One thing appears most likely – when we do return to the moon, 3D printing will approximately certainly be involved. The technology has been part of just simply of each discussion of the next moon landing, with thoughts ranging of actual 3D printed moon bases to 3D printed spacecraft which will help us get there.

With the motivation provided by the Google Lunar XPRIZE, it appears probable which the next moon landing will be sponsored by a private company rather than a governmental space agency. The XPRIZE competition, which was added all the way back in 2007, will award $20 million to the initial company to land a privately funded rover on the moon, travel 500 meters, and transmit high definition images and video back to planet Earth. Companies have until the end of this year to announce their verified commence contracts, and missions must be accomplished by the end of 2017. Several of the companies who have entered the competition are incorporating 3D printing into their plans, but maybe none are using the technology additional than German team Part Time Scientists.


Audi Lunar Quattro at the North American International Auto Show (Image: The Verge)

The team is being sponsored by Audi, which has invested a lot in 3D printing technology. At the North American International Auto Show, which opened today in Detroit, Audi is debuting a prototype of the Audi Lunar Quattro, the rover which Part Time Scientists will send to the moon. The Lunar Quattro is tiny, sturdy and approximately entirely 3D printed of aluminum and titanium. The team’s goal is not just simply to travel the 500 meters required by the contest, but to travel 2.3 kilometers of their planned landing site to the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) which the Apollo 17 mission left behind in 1972.

_0005_ptsVisiting the LRV, says Part Time Scientists CEO Robert Böhme, is their team’s main goal, although winning the XPRIZE may be a welcome bonus. No one has seen the LRV since it was left behind, and Part Time Scientists wants to see how well it has held up over decades of complex moon conditions. What they learn may provide valuable information on how best to design and create\ future lunar equipment.

“You can get a excellent deal of knowledge of materials science to learn what works and what doesn’t,” says Böhme. “Long-term exposure, what materials can you use?”


Image: The Verge

Hopefully, a few of those materials are may already on the moon. Part Time Scientists wants to build a 3D printer which can print objects using lunar soil, which is rich in aluminum, titanium and magnesium. Constructing parts using materials native to the moon will not just create them additional durable to lunar conditions, but will save time by allowing the parts to be created onsite rather than shipped of planet Earth.

They’re not the initial company to consider this thought; we’ve may already seen a 3D printer commenceed into space and docked at the International Space Station to experiment with printing parts in space and ultimately on Mars. It creates sense; what other manufacturing method is transportable and efficient adequate to bring to another planet? Böhme thinks which 3D printing may go a long way towards allowing astronauts to “live off the land” of the moon.

“If you bring the right technology back to the Moon, you can pave the way for additional exploration,” he said. “And not just simply exploration, but in addition to find a commercial benefit for future missions. It’s quite hard to just simplyify a lunar mission now, even if you get it down to $30 million.”

The ultimate goal of the XPRIZE competition is to just simplyify repeated missions to the moon. A lot of potential research opportunities are there, and the resources on the lunar surface may be amazingly valuable to humanity. Regardless of which team creates it there initial, the results of this 10-year competition are going to be big news for science and, potentially, manufacturing. Discuss this story in the Audi Moon 3D Printing forum on 3DPB.com.

[Images: The Verge]