Having proved their excellence in making earthly vehicles, Audi is now taking on a space challenge by creating a new moon buggy. Audi Lunar Quattro is part of the car maker’s support package for the Berlin-based engineering group “Part-Time Scientists” who compete for the $30 million prize money of Google Lunar XPRIZE.
The XPRIZE Lunar competition is quite an ambitious project, asking participants – who must be 90 percent privately financed – to send a buggy to the moon. The buggy must drive at least one-half kilometer distance on the moon and transmit high-resolution images and video footage back to Earth. And it must be on its way to the moon aboard a launching rocket by the end of 2017.
So that’s a pretty sizable challenge, but at least Audi will build the moon buggy for them. Made mostly from high-strength aluminum, Audi Lunar Quattro weighs 35 kilograms (77.2 lb) which they plan to further reduce through the use of magnesium and design modifications. It features a swiveling solar panel captures sunlight which feeds a lithium-ion battery which in turn powers the four wheel hub motors. As befits a moon buggy worthy of the name, all four of the wheels can be rotated 360 degrees. The theoretical top speed of the vehicle is 3.6 km/h (2.2 mph) and it will be equipped with two stereo cameras plus a third one to study materials.
The landing site for the new moon buggy will be north of the moon’s equator, close to NASA’s 1972 landing site. That means the buggy can once and for all settle the argument that that landing was faked by sending back images of the litter Apollo 17 left behind.