New Space Race: Astrobotic Will Deliver Competitor's Robots To The Moon Japanese Team's Rovers Will Share Landing Craft With CMU's Andy Rover

Byron SpiceWednesday, February 25, 2015

Hakuto's twin rovers, Moonraker and Tetris, will piggyback on Astrobotic's Griffin lander (shown) to reach the lunar surface.

Astrobotic Technology, which is pursuing the Google Lunar XPrize together with Carnegie Mellon University, will not only deliver its own robot to the moon, but will also transport a pair of rovers for Hakuto, the only Japanese team in the competition.

Astrobotic plans to launch its Google Lunar XPrize mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., during the second half of 2016. Hakuto's twin rovers, Moonraker and Tetris, will piggyback on Astrobotic's Griffin lander to reach the lunar surface. Upon touchdown, the Japanese rovers will be released simultaneously with the CMU-developed Andy rover, beginning a race for the $20 million grand prize.

All of the rovers will attempt to traverse 500 meters on the moon's surface and send high-definition images and video back to Earth to win the competition. 

Last month, both teams were awarded Google Lunar XPrize Milestone Prizes: Hakuto won $500,000 for technological advancements in the Mobility category, while Astrobotic and CMU won a total of $1.75M for innovations in all three focus areas — Landing, Mobility and Imaging. The two teams' three rovers all demonstrated the ability to move 500 meters across the lunar surface and withstand the high radiation environment and extreme temperatures on the moon. 

This partnership between the teams demonstrates a new phase of collaboration within the Google Lunar XPrize competition. Both sides will benefit: Hakuto gets a ride to the moon and Astrobotic secures an important customer for its lunar delivery service. This joint contribution would be reflected in a share of the prize purse. 

The target area for the landing will be the Lacus Mortis region, located in the northeastern part of the moon. Images from spacecraft orbiting the moon suggest that Lacus Mortis holds a pit, or skylight, that could potentially be an entrance to a lunar cave. These caves are thought to be lava tubes and could prove scientifically important in explaining the moon's volcanic past. They also have the potential to house habitats that would protect human explorers from the hostile lunar environment.  

Google Lunar XPrize and Astrobotic representatives joined Hakuto Feb. 23 at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo to announce the partnership and report on the recent Google Lunar XPrize Milestone Prize awards. 

"I am very excited to announce this rideshare contract with Astrobotic", said Takeshi Hakamada, Hakuto team leader and CEO of ispace. "This is the next major step for Hakuto toward our lunar mission after we won the Mobility Milestone Prize. This contract enables Hakuto to actually send our rover to the moon, which is important because Hakuto is only concentrating on rover development. Astrobotic Technology is developing a lander which has capability to open up a new era of lunar transportation services, and I have no doubt that they will be the first team to land on the moon." 

"Astrobotic is thrilled to welcome Hakuto aboard our first mission," said John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic Technology. "We envision a 'NASCAR on the Moon' scenario, where competing teams land together, and countries can cheer on their team to the finish line. Hakuto is the first team signed to fulfill our dream of the first race beyond Earth's orbit."

"We are delighted that two of our teams have engaged in this partnership for their Google Lunar XPrize missions," said Andrew Barton, director of technical operations, Google Lunar XPrize. "Stimulating new business ecosystems is one of the core goals of any XPrize competition, and this joint venture is an excellent example of how humanity's commercial and economic interests will expand into space in the coming years. This announcement builds on the progress seen during the recent Google Lunar XPrize Milestone Prize awards, and we look forward to the teams furthering this momentum with the news of a confirmed launch contract."

For More Information

Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 |