Italy plans to send spider and crab robots to Moon by 2012

May 15th, 2009 - 1:50 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 15 (ANI): A team of private racketeers from Italy is planning to send robots to the Moon by the year 2012, which would resemble skittering spiders or crabs that could deploy as a swarm of mobile cameras and sensors on both legs and wheels.

According to a report by Fox News, the team is one of 17 teams competing in the Google Lunar X Prize.

“Team Italia has evolved,” said Piero Messina, president of the Naples-based International Association for the Aerospace Culture (AICA) that is coordinating Team Italia.

Messina helped pull together all the major Italian aerospace and engineering universities, as well as the two largest Italian aerospace companies, to support the race to land a robot on the moon by 2012.

The idea to compete for the Google Lunar X Prize crystallized around the vision of Alberto Rovetta, a professor of robot mechanics at Politecnico di Milano.

Rovetta’s designs for lunar robots resemble skittering spiders or crabs that could deploy as a swarm of mobile cameras and sensors on both legs and wheels.

Such unorthodox designs may help the team seize the Google Lunar X Prize, which requires teams to land a robot on the moon, move at least 1,640 feet (500 meters) and beam high definition views back to Earth.

However, Messina noted that safe, time-tested technology remains crucial to Team Italia’s goal of meeting the Google Lunar X Prize objectives.

The group also wants to remain within a target “financial envelope” of 20-30 million dollars, given that the X Prize awards 20 million dollars for first place.

“New technology would add to the cost, but it all depends what will be available to us,” said Messina. “Of course, we would love to test new technologies and new robotic things,” he added.

Team Italia will also likely focus on lower-cost alternatives to commercial launch vehicles, such as the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Vega rocket that is already slated to launch an experimental reentry spacecraft in 2012.

The team is currently occupied itself with organizing the principal players and looking at preliminary mission design. (ANI)

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