Last year, Audi announced it was working on a lunar rover with a group called the Part-Time Scientists. Now the company says the design of its Lunar Quattro is complete, and all that’s left is final testing before it’s ready to head for the moon. Since Audi and its 16 engineers became involved with the project, the rover has actually increased in size, as have its tires. The company says this is for added stability. Despite the added size, the rover is now lighter, bringing it down from 38 to 30 kilograms (what we’d call 66 pounds).
Otherwise, the rover is generally the same as it was last year. All four wheels are still powered by electricity, so Audi touts it as being both a Quattro and an E-tron vehicle. Cute. The rover will undergo final testing in the Middle East where it will run through simulations of the mission. For those unfamiliar, the mission parameters were set by Google for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. The prize is worth $30 million and will go to the first team to land a privately funded lander and rover on the moon, drive the rover 500 meters, and send back photos. If the mission is successful, we should get some great 3D and 360-degree shots of the lunar rover left behind by the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, since the proposed landing site is nearby.
The Part-Time Scientists team that Audi partnered with has also booked a launch for its ALINA lunar lander, which will carry a pair of the Lunar Quattro rovers to the moon’s surface. The launch was scheduled with Spaceflight Industries and is set for the end of 2017. Spaceflight Industries has managed 11 rocket launches with different companies and rockets between 2013 and 2015, and will also launch a probe from Israeli XPRIZE competitor SpaceIL sometime next year on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.