Team Hungarobots from Sopron, Hungary, was found best by the jury in the 2012 Google Lunar X PRIZE LEGO Mindstorms Challenge. The high school student team of five and the Puli affiliate team leader made an excellent video on the future of the equipment left on the lunar surface by previous Moon missions, and secured their first place by building a LEGO robot capable of completing a complex Moon mission simulation. As the grand prize, the team can enjoy a four day trip to Hawaii, and a guided tour to various NASA facilities.
Wind and snow. Two components of harsh weather you encounter during the winter in Hungary but really won't expect it on the Moon. But this was our last opportunity for a field test before shipping the Iteration 2 rover to Innsbruck for the MARS2013 dress rehearsal, so we had no time to waste. After some brainstorming and a few phone calls, the team came up with a solution: the indoor Sand Arena at the sport complex of Építők SC (the name, Builders, refers to the Sports Club of to the Union of Building-industry Workers). The arena is normally used for things like beach volleyball training, so our inquiry to test a Moon rover there was truly out of the ordinary - but thankfully they let our rover in happily.
Bad news for the fans of lunar exploration: last week, the ESA ministerial council decided to not to allocate further funding for the Lunar Lander, giving higher priorities for other areas, like the ExoMars mission. Not all hope is lost though: DLR, the German space agency vowed to continue the work on the project and is looking for partners, but even if they succeed, the mission will slip into the 2020s. In the mean time, however, a more radical proposal is making its way to the leaders of the agency: let's smash a giant space telescope into the Moon!
Last week, we took out our latest rover for a second outdoor field test. The current Iteration 2 design is taking part in a month-long Mars simulation experiment next year, and has to pass various tests before the mission starts. This time I2 had to tackle steep, sandy hillsides by using its improved wheel design.
The team is working hard on our first test rover, the not-so-catchy named Iteration 2, to mature the mechanical, electrical and software design. After a few indoor tests and public appearances – including the “Brigde of the Future” and “Researchers' Night” events –, the rover was delivered to the former bauxite mine at Gánt. The site now serves as a museum and a geological park, and was used in the Hunveyor educational space probe experiments as an analogue to Mars, so it was a good candidate for field tests. For the first test run, we picked a hardpan covered with gravel and some sand.