Team Building Open Source Rover for 2010 Lunar Landing
If you've been watching NASA's latest space shuttle mission and thinking about how cool it would be to return to the moon, then you're in good company. A cadre of engineers and scientists have formed Team FREDNET, a group dedicated to using open source technology to put a robot on the moon and win the Google Lunar X Prize . If they can land a rover, travel at least 1,640 feet (500 meters) over the lunar surface, and transmit images back to Earth by December 31, 2012, the group takes home $20 million in prize money.
Under the leadership of founder Fred Bourgois, Team FREDNET's game plan to reach its goal is to keep the project "simple, small, low mass, and low budget." Small, indeed. The first rover design the team considered was about the size of a cell phone. Though the concept didn't pan out, it demonstrates how committed Team FREDNET is to thinking big but designing tiny. "Everything we are planning and doing has an element that will continue even after the X-Prize is over," Team FREDNET's software lead Rich Core told Space.com.
The importance of the open source design method for this competition can't be overstated, and may be what ultimately helps the team win the grand prize. It's already helped push rover development along to the prototype stage while other teams are still haggling over conceptual details.
"As some people have already noticed, one of the advantages of having several competing rover designs being developed in an open-source way is that they can share common components across the designs. An example of this is Jörg's impressive wheel design for his WRV1 lunar rover prototype, which is now also available in an up-scaled version that could be used for the Jaluro lunar rover prototype," writes Alex Csete on the team's blog.
If you've always secretly dreamed of being invovled in space exploration, now's your chance because there are still plenty of ways to plug in to Team FREDNET. If nothing else, you can always just buy a t-shirt to show your support.