1 December 2016

Audi to sponsor spacecraft to the Moon in 2017

The Audi lunar quattro, a lunar rover developed by the German space travel team 'Part-Time Scientists' and sponsored by Audi, is set to make the 385,000km trip to the moon from late 2017, writes Trish Whelan.

The team's lander, ALINA, will touch down close to the landing point of the 1972 Apollo 17 mission in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, with two Audi lunar quattro rovers on board. The lander will carry research equipment for other partners including NASA, the ESA and Wikipedia.

The journey marks the final stage of the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, worth $30 million. A private team must get a rover to the Moon, drive it at least 500 metres and send high-resolution pictures back to Earth. From an original field of thirty challengers, now only five remain.

The rovers are equipped with Audi's latest technologies. Sixteen Audi engineers have been working on the rovers' all-wheel-drive power distribution, optimising its high-performance electronics; reducing their overall weight from 38 to 30 kilograms using intelligent material mixes and 3D-printed aluminium; and contributing their expertise in autonomous driving. These components were stress tested in the 'Audi sun simulation chamber', where the Moon's extreme conditions were simulated.

The team will be simulating the entire mission in the Middle East over the next few months.

They are breaking new technological ground with the Audi lunar quattro and can learn much about how automotive components behave in extreme conditions.