Hungarian Team Taking Big Steps For Google Lunar XPRIZE
January 15, 2014

Hungarian Team Taking Big Steps For Google Lunar XPRIZE

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

A Hungarian team competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE has completed a successful simulation of its rover mission.

The Google Lunar XPRIZE is offering $40 million to the first private company that is able to land safely on the surface of the Moon. The competition also requires the rover to travel 1,600 feet above, below or on the Lunar surface, as well as send two videos or photos back to Earth.

Team Puli said that during its rover’s field test, it drove 1,900 feet across soft, lose soil similar to that found on the lunar surface and broadcast high-resolution images and video from its starting and end points. The team used the new PISCES facility located on the slopes of Mauna Kea. This facility is acknowledged as being among the closest analogs to lunar soil found on Earth due to the volcanic soil.

The team members verified several core aspects of their upcoming Google Lunar XPRIZE mission during its December testing, including the planning processes for the rover’s route, testing the rover’s mobility across the lunar analog terrains, and trialing the Mission Control software.

Mission Control for the Puli simulation was located in Budapest Town Hall, Hungary, which is where the team would be controlling its actual Google Lunar XPRIZE attempt.

“The Puli rover has a unique wheel-leg (wheg) construction, designed explicitly for rough terrain,” Puli team leader Dr. Tibor Pacher said in a statement. “This is not the first time that Puli has been tested in analog sites – we took part in a field test in Morocco in early 2013 – but the PISCES facility offers the most challenging and realistic scenario that our rover has faced to date. To simulate the Mooncast that we will need to transmit back from the Moon, we have completed a ‘Maunacast’ with panoramic shots of our start and finish sites, waypoint identifications and distant verifications. We are delighted with how the Puli rover has performed.”

The Team Puli members had already visited the PISCES facility before the simulation while mentoring students for the 2012 MoonBots LEGO Mindstorms Challenge. Team Puli mentored the Hungarobot students during this competition, who won a VIP trip to test their LEGO lunar robots at the PISCES facility.

“Because of Hungary's strong traditions in engineering and science I saw huge opportunities in a Hungarian Google Lunar XPRIZE project to create sustainable values – in education and society as well as engineering,” said Pacher. “Team Puli was extremely happy and proud last year when the junior version of the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, MoonBots, was won for the first time by a European – Hungarian – team. Through initial contacts made during the Hungarobots trip to PISCES, we have developed further links with PISCES and are now testing the hardware for our actual lunar mission here. Our participation in a STEM project has not only provided an inspirational opportunity for the students, but has actually helped us in reaching our goal to send a spacecraft to the Moon.”