Technology and Demonstrations for a Lunar Rover Expedition 961621
The Lunar Rover Initiative (LRI) is producing technological and programmatic steps toward a commercial robotic expedition on the Moon at the turn of the millennium. Two teleoperated rovers will commemorate Apollo Era lunar landings by revisiting the historic sites of Apollo 11, Surveyor 5, Ranger 8, Apollo 17 and Lunokhod 2 during a two year, 2000km trek. Millions will experience lunar exploration through continuous live display of high quality video images and sensor telemetry at theme parks, research organizations, television networks and science centers worldwide. In addition, the public will drive the rovers during the traverse.
In June, 1997 a terrestrial prototype will demonstrate key robotic technologies of safeguarded navigation, locomotion in barren terrain and system reliability in a sixty day, 250km desert traverse. The technologies matured in this effort and lessons learnt will be incorporated into future flight articles.
A favored launch vehicle is the extended H-IIA of Japanese manufacture, and a derivative of the Russian Phobos lander would deliver the rovers to the lunar surface. Each rover has a mass of 240 kg, generates 430 watts of electricity from solar arrays, and uses isotope units to provide 325 watts of heat to hibernate at night. The challenges facing rover design and development include the harsh lunar environment, unprecedented robotic capability, tight cost and time budgets, extreme reliability and availability requirements, and complex socio-political issues. This paper describes these various challenges and the solutions reached.