Off to the moon – Astrobotic leading the way

Astrobotic, a company I invested in over 2.5 years ago, has just announced today that it has signed a contract with SpaceX to launch Astrobotic’s robotic payload to the Moon on a Falcon 9 – launch may happen in December 2013.  Astrobotic are aiming to win the Google Lunar X Prize, but beyond that has a full business plan for not only its first launch, but a series of further flights to the moon.

I am immensely proud to be associated, even in part as a private investor, with the Astrobotic team led by “Red” Whittaker and David Gump.  Their vision and aspiration to take commercial space operations further than ever before is inspirational and, whilst this is an investemnt for me, it is so much more than that.  I remember being inspired by the Apollo launches in my childhood and I do remember the Apollo 11 landing on the moon (I’m just old enough!).  Along with the Biggles books of W E Johns, the US space program inspired me to take Aeronautical Engineering at University and pursue an aviation related career.  I hope Astrobotic does the same for millions of other children when we land on the moon – the first return to the moon’s surface since 1976.

From the Astrobotic press release:

Astrobotic Red Rover to fly on SpaceX Falcon 9


The Falcon 9 upper stage will sling Astrobotic on a four-day cruise to the Moon.   Astrobotic will then orbit the moon to align for landing.  The spacecraft will land softly, precisely and safely using technologies pioneered by Carnegie Mellon University for guiding autonomous cars.  The rover will explore for three months, operate continuously during the lunar days, and hibernate through the lunar nights.  The lander will sustain payload operations with generous power and communications.

“The mission is the first of a serial campaign,” said Dr. William “Red” Whittaker, chairman of Astrobotic Technology and founder of the university’s Field Robotics Center. “Astrobotic’s missions will pursue new resources, deliver rich experiences, serve new customers and open new markets.   Spurred further by incentives, contracts, and the Google Lunar X-Prize, this is a perfect storm for new exploration.”

“The moon has economic  and scientific treasures that went undiscovered during the Apollo era, and our robot explorers will spearhead this new lunar frontier,” said David Gump, president of Astrobotic Technology.   “The initial mission will bank up to $24 million in Google’s Lunar X-Prize, Florida’s $2 million launch bonus, and NASA’s $10 million landing contract while delivering 240 pounds of payload for space agencies and corporate marketers.”

Update: Today’s edition of “The Daily” for iPads features Astrobotic robots leading to the lunar frontier, with quotes from various people including myself.  While the great animated interactive graphics are available only on the iPad, the basic story is here:

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Posted on February 6, 2011, in Space/Astrobotic, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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