The Audi Lunar Quattro Rover will drive on the moon in 2018
Audi is usually known for its Quattro-driven rally cars and premium interiors – but now it wants to add space exploration to the list. Next year, an Audi-built lunar rover will drive on the moon, and it’ll be the first vehicle to traverse the moon’s surface since NASA’s Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) in 1972.
Partly funded by Audi and designed by a private organisation called the Part-Time Scientists, the new Rover isn’t like the old one NASA used – and no, that doesn’t mean it’s an Audi Q5 customised for the vacuum of space, either.
Instead, it’s much smaller, remote-controlled and – because it’s an Audi – comes with Quattro four-wheel drive. However, the Lunar Quattro Rover’s Quattro system is very different to what you’d find on the road. Instead of a driveshaft, the rover has motors housed inside its wheels, and they work together to give the buggy the maximum amount of possible grip at any one time. In this case, Quattro is more of an algorithm than a piece of hardware.
Audi Lunar Quattro Rover at a glance
- Top speed: 3.6mph
- Weight: 30kg
- Operating range: +120˚C to –180˚C
The rover only has a top speed of 3.6mph, but it is extremely efficient, and that’s partly because of the way it’s constructed. Firstly, it’s made from 85% aluminium, blended with mixture of silicon and magnesium, designed to give it strength, lightness and a degree of elasticity – perfect for the extremes on the moon surface.
Secondly, like pretty much everything nowadays, the rover is 3D-printed, and that means engineers can produce shapes you just can’t with conventional construction. For example, its wheels are hollow to save weight, and parts of its chassis have channels designed to house cables.
The colour of the rover also has a function. To cope with the huge range of temperatures on the moon’s surface, the Lunar Quattro Rover is coated with a white paint that reflects back 95% of UV rays, helping to keep it cool. The paint is essentially made up of tiny mirrors that reflect the light away, and Part-Time Scientists told us this technology is already looked at for use in Audi’s road cars.
Two of these highly-sophisticated rovers will blast off in a Falcon 1 rocket from Cape Canaveral around June next year. After landing, both will head to the Taurus-Littrow valley, where they’ll analyse the effects of the moon’s surface on Apollo 17’s LRV.
Unlike the specially designed Audi vehicle, the Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle is made of things such as plastic, piano wire and more, which really aren’t designed for space, so the Part-Time Scientists are curious to see how it’s holding up.
Working with NASA
To get to this point, the Part-Time Scientists have had to work with NASA to protect the original LRV, and that means they have to stick to rules designed to make sure nothing is disturbed. Firstly, they have to land well away from the rover to prevent the spreading of dust, and they also have to approach it in a zigzag fashion – in case the rover somehow loses control and ploughs straight into the 45-year-old artefact.
As for the Quattro Rovers themselves? It looks like they’ll be destined to have the same fate as the rover they’re going to investigate. Part-Time Scientists say that the huge temperature changes mean that the batteries and circuits are likely to fail over time – but they’re hoping both rovers will have completed their missions by then.