Moon Express, a Google Lunar X PRIZE contender, announced today that it has selected Autodesk design software to develop commercial lander and robotic systems for lunar exploration.
Taking the main stage before more than 8,000 attendees at Autodesk University 2011, Edwin “EJ” Sabathia of the “Moon Express Robotics Lab for Innovation” (MERLIN) unveiled lunar micro-rovers designed with Autodesk software. EJ was one of eight student robotics engineers hired by Moon Express in September from a team of the nations’ brightest engineering students. MERLIN is utilizing Autodesk design software for developing robotic technology supporting the company’s lunar exploration missions.
The micro-rovers, named “ARTHUR” and “ROBERT” after the famous science fiction authors Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein, are two-wheeled multi-purpose designs capable of exploring the lunar surface, capturing stereo HD images and video, and carrying scientific payloads.
“We are extremely pleased to have Autodesk by our side as we reach for the Moon,” said company Founder and CEO Bob Richards. “Apollo was designed by engineers in their twenties that were backed by the time’s world superpowers. Today’s technology allows small teams to tackle complex problems and makes every engineer a superpower.”
“Autodesk tools are used to help solve some of the world’s daunting design and engineering challenges,” said Autodesk Vice President and CTO Jeff Kowalski. “We are very excited about empowering the creative energy of Moon Express engineers with Autodesk design technology by allowing them to conceptualize and simulate their designs before they are real.”
Moon Express also announced “The Moon is ME” Lunar Mining Design Competition as a global challenge to design lunar mining tools that the MERLIN rovers can utilize to acquire and transport lunar samples containing valuable metals and minerals. The competition is global and open to students as well as professional designers using Autodesk software. The top designs will be prototyped and demonstrated in a field test competition at Moon Express facilities at the NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley. The winning prize design will be funded by the company for potential test and demonstration on the Moon.