Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hordes of Italian Robots on the Moon: It Could Happen

"Italy Aims to Send Spider-Bot Swarm to Moon" (May 13, 2009)

"Nearly 40 years after Americans first set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969 with NASA's historic Apollo 11 flight, a host of private rocketeers are hoping to follow to win a $30 million prize. Here, looks at Team Italia, one of 17 teams competing in the Google Lunar X Prize:

"What began as a glimmer in the mind's eye for one robotics researcher has grown into a national endeavor for Team Italia, one of 17 groups competing for 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...."

"...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...."

There's a sequence of frames from a videotape of one of the prototype robots, showing how it scuttles.

One of the things I find promising about this is that the Italian team's planning to use mostly off-the-shelf technology. There's a lot still to develop, when it comes to robots: but we're at a point where it seems that much of the basic work has been done.

And - it's about time that someone get back to the moon, and start what the Apollo program started.

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