LunaCorp Launches Plan for Multimedia Moon Robot
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Washington, D.C., June 15, 2000 A fresh era of Moon exploration came one giant leap closer today as LunaCorp announced its initiatives to send advanced robots to the lunar surface. The robots will prospect for water and prepare the way for human settlements, with their adventure live on the Internet, on television networks and at science centers.
The initial Icebreaker Moon Rover is scheduled for launch in late 2003 on a commercial rocket like those used to orbit communications satellites. The rover is being designed by Dr. Red Whittaker, chief scientist of the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The goal is to explore near the Moon's poles where orbiting satellites have found indications that valuable ice deposits may lurk deep in permanently shadowed polar craters.
Because the Moon is hotter than boiling water at noon and colder than liquid nitrogen at night, the robot will avoid those extremes by circumnavigating the Moon every 29.5 days, which is the length of a lunar day.
"Our robot, by driving completely around the Moon at a high latitude at only a few kilometers per hour, will enjoy 'lunar morning' temperatures all the time by staying in synch with the sun," said Dr. Whittaker. "The Apollo astronauts landed just a few days after dawn, and left long before noon, but for long-term exploration we had to find another way to beat the heat and cold."
The Icebreaker Moon Rover project will be funded by corporate sponsors, exclusive television contracts, fees from an Internet portal, ticket sales at science centers offering motion-platform "telepresence chambers" linked to the robot, and contracts with government space agencies.
RadioShack Corporation, the nation's largest consumer electronics retailer, became the first corporate sponsor of this effort.
"We're supporting this new round of Moon exploration for brand differentiation that associates RadioShack with science, technology and the pursuit of ultimate answers. We're also backing it because the last push to get to the moon lead directly to the development of wireless phones, satellite dishes and internet businesses," said Jim McDonald, senior vice president of marketing for RadioShack.
McDonald added, "This project presents not only an original branding opportunity for RadioShack as opposed to signs in baseball stadiums, but also allows us to provide an educational and personal involvement opportunity for the nearly one million customers who visit RadioShack every day. Through a realistic computer game simulator of lunar robot
driving, that we are developing with our partner Microsoft, our customers will be able to learn more about this exciting project. And once the robot is on the Moon, there will be opportunities for customers to interact with the project over the Internet and at RadioShack.com."
"This free simulation at RadioShack will be part of LunaCorp's research into how to design software for lunar exploration that anyone can understand and use," said LunaCorp president David Gump. "Web visitors will be helping us refine the tools needed for the premier Internet event of the 21st century ? live Moon exploration hosted by a talking multimedia robot searching for ways to begin a human settlement."
LunaCorp advisor Dr. Buzz Aldrin, who walked on the Moon with Neil Armstrong in 1969, applauded the RadioShack commitment. "A successful future for space exploration depends on involving the public directly, and I am delighted that RadioShack shares this vision of opening up the adventure to everyone."
The Robotics Institute sunsynchronous Moon rover design will get a terrestrial test in July 2001 in the Canadian Arctic, where it will circle a local high spot in 24 hours as the Sun clocks around the horizon. NASA has financed this field trial with a $1 million grant and LunaCorp's corporate sponsors will pay for the communications required to link the robot to the Internet so the entire world can participate.
Gump said LunaCorp is seeking three to four additional companies to join RadioShack in sponsoring this terrestrial trek and the eventual Moon landing. "Each will get an exclusive contest or activity they can use to reward their customers," Gump said.
The Arlington, VA, LunaCorp has been developing private Moon exploration technology since 1989. Additional information is available from www.lunacorp.com.
LunaCorp media contact: Jim Dunstan, executive vice president, 703-841-9500.
RadioShack media contact: Kay Jackson, director of media relations, 817-415-0592.
Robotics Institute media contact: Anne Watzman, Carnegie Mellon University, 412-268-3830.