Part Time Scientists (A Google Lunar X-Prize Update) | Vol. 4 / No. 6.2

Sometimes you get distracted from all the little but awesome things going on in the world by all the giant flaming dumpster fires literally everywhere you turn. And sometimes you catch sight of the awesome things again, if only for a moment. So here’s a reminder: Google’s offering $20 million to the first team to get a robot to the moon that can travel 500m and send back HD video and photos.

Gizmodo did a nice little piece on PT Scientists, a German team working toward the prize. They’ve partnered with Audi to make a rover that’s going to be called (I kid you not) the Audi Lunar Quattro:

Look at that gorgeous beast | Photo: PT Scientists / Audi
Look at that gorgeous beast | Photo: PT Scientists / Audi

And they’ve partnered with Spaceflight Industries to get their lander vehicle ALINA (Autonomous Landing and Navigation Module) to the moon:

See those little rovers tucked in the sides? | Photo: PT Scientists
See those little rovers tucked in the sides? | Photo: PT Scientists

ALINA will apparently be able to take 100kg of cargo down to the moon’s surface.

Now the Gizmodo article mentions that the plan is to drop their rover near the Taurus-Littrow valley landing site of Apollo 17, the last mission to the moon, and optimistically suggests that the images it captures — it’s planning a drive up to the 200m border of the exclusion zone (the landing site’s a protected monument) — will be evidence that we did, indeed, go to the moon. But let’s all be honest here: if you can believe that the moon landings were a hoax, you can believe that the evidence presented by a private rover is a hoax as well, because you don’t get evidence too well and you love the colour of your tinfoil hat. But that’s okay, because the rest of us will be happy to see private companies going back to the moon while the government deals with, well, whatever it’s going to be doing. Probably shutting down research into global warming, because it’s not like it’s a threat to national security or anything. Sigh.

Anyway my favourite part of this whole story is the part that Gizmodo missed, and it’s that the “PT” in “PT Scientists” stands for “Part Time.” Their tagline is “they’re part-time scientists, and they’re full-time crazy.” And if that doesn’t make you chuckle, try hearing it said by somebody with an amazing announcer voice in their publicity video.

Seriously — I cannot wait to see how this competition goes. It’s basically all set to go down next year.

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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.

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