The space exploration company Astrobotic wants to be your robot’s cheap ticket to the moon. The aerospace innovator is planning to start flying missions there in summer 2016. Its lander-in-development, called Griffin, will have enough room on board to take four robotic rovers and scientific instruments to the lunar surface. On the way, it could also drop off a satellite in the moon’s orbit.
“The typical quote from NASA for the cost of a mission like we’re doing is $1 billion,” says Kevin Peterson, the chief technology officer of Astrobotic. “We believe we can do it for a tenth of that, about $100 million.”
Astrobotic is competing with 17 other teams to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE. To winner of the $30 million grand prize must land a rover on the moon; drive it for 500 meters (1,640 feet) along, above or below the lunar surface; and send back a high-definition TV signal for the world to see.