A crack team of university students is just a month away from launching the first privately-made lunar rover onto the Moon’s surface.
Slated for May the Fourth, the unofficial holiday of the Star Wars franchise, the rover weighs just 2 kilograms, and the mission objectives include demonstrating its technology and snapping scientifically-relevant images.
Called Iris, the rover designed at Carnegie Mellon University’s Pittsburgh campus will be carried to the moon aboard a United Launch Alliance “Vulcan Centaur” rocket, alongside a multi-purpose payload.
Back at control center, students on the project will work in teams and in shifts to send action commands, and monitor the rover’s health and progress as it carries out a 60-hour mission.
“Hundreds of students have poured thousands of hours into Iris. We’ve worked for years toward this mission, and to have a launch date on the calendar is an exciting step,” said Raewyn Duvall commander of the Iris mission.
“Iris will open up lunar and space exploration by proving that a tiny, lightweight rover built by students can succeed on the moon.”
It will set a number of firsts. Only the US, Japan, and Russia have put rovers on the Moon, so Duvall’s team will be the first civilian team to do so. Secondly, it will be the smallest and the lightest rover ever deployed.
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Onboard the rocket, another privately-made space machine, The Peregrine lander, will bring Iris down onto the Lunar surface. Peregrine was made by private space company Astrobiotic, and will serve as a delivery platform for astronauts working on the Lunar surface in the next 20 years.
In preparation for the May 4th launch, the team at CMU has conducted dozens of training simulations to ensure they can handle potential issues that may arise across its primary mission and accompanied extended mission phase.
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