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Astrobotic wins NASA contract to continue work on small lunar CubeRover

Aaron Aupperlee
| Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 2:40 p.m.
An artist interpretation of the Astrobotic Peregrine Lunar Lander with CubeRover.
An artist interpretation of the Astrobotic Peregrine Lunar Lander with CubeRover.

Astrobotic won a $750,000 contract from NASA to continue developing a small lunar rover.

The Pittsburgh-based space delivery company will continue to work closely with Carnegie Mellon University on developing the CubeRover.

The rovers could drive down the cost of exploration on the lunar and Martian surfaces and open both up to more scientific, commercial missions.

“CubeRover stands to give more people access to the Moon than ever before,” Andrew Horchler, head of the program at Astrobotic, said in a statement. “Countries and organizations without multi-billion-dollar budgets now have a means of exploring other worlds for the first time.”

NASA's Curiosity Rover, which landed on Mars in 2012, weighed about as much as a car and cost about $2.5 billion. The Martian rovers Spirit and Opportunity weighed about as much as a golf cart and cost $400 million apiece.

Astrobotic's CubeRover would weigh less than five pounds and fit into a small cube aboard a lunar lander. The rover would then unfold itself from the cube and explore the surface. Astrobotic hopes to send its first CubeRover to the Moon abroad the maiden voyage of its Peregrine lander in 2020.

CMU's Planetary Robotics Lab designed a 10-kilogram CubeRover in 2015. The lab has also built an 8-kilogram rover, a 6-kilogram prototype and developed designs for a 4-kilogram model.

Astrobotic received $125,000 from NASA in May to begin work with CMU on the CubeRover. The additional $750,000 will fund work for the next two years to develop a flight-ready rover for NASA.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aaupperlee@tribweb.com, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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