Google the Moon

Famed roboticist Red Whittaker may have the inside track to win the next moon race.

"It's a pretty wonderful thing to have something like the moon all to yourself with a robot for awhile," says William "Red" Whittaker of Carnegie Mellon University. (Courtesy of

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A&S: Do you think that all the problems are beat, or is there technology still to develop?

Whittaker: The unique technology might be as bold as integrating everything into a miniature monolithic spacecraft, so that the thing that flies is the thing that lands, is the thing that rolls, is the thing that broadcasts. And that would require a leap of technical gymnastics. And then, the X Prize victor will be a rolling TV station…because a robotic space mission is so limited in landed mass, everything that lands is used in some way to achieve the goals. And the X Prize goals are very clear. These robots are clearly not going to be the last lunar robots. We’ve talked about so many different objectives that might be pursued, and each of them is different, and each of them would be a great X Prize victory. [A team might revisit the Russian rover] Lunokhod in the highlands, or go to the equatorial mares. Somebody who would go after ice discovery would target the polar regions that might harbor ice. So each of those is a different mission. It could be that diverse teams approach those for different reasons.

A&S: We’ll be following this story in the coming years.

Whittaker: Not too many years, I hope.

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