Moon Mission Ahead! Private Rovers to Visit Apollo 17 Landing Site
Private companies are competing to send their rovers to Apollo 17's landing site on the Moon.
The proposed private space mission is part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. According to the XPRIZE website, the first team to successfully place a spacecraft on the moon's surface, travel 500 meters and transmit high-definiton video and images back to earth will win the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE. The team will get extra points if they manage to make it to the Apollo 17 site.
The group, called PT Scientists, is one of 16 teams competing for the prize. BBC notes that PT Scientists is only one of the few groups who have already secured a deal with launch broker Spaceflight Inc. for a seat on a commercial launcher.
According to New Scientist, the group is planning to send a pair of rovers, designed with Audi, to check on the lunar buggy left behind by astronauts Eugene Cernan (Apollo 17 commander) and Harrison Schmitt (only trained geologist to walk on the lunar surface ) during NASA's final mission to the moon in 1972.
Expounding on the PT Scientists' plan, Popular Science said the team will set its Autonomous Landing and Navigation Module within two to four miles of the 1972 landing site. Then, it will deploy the pair of rovers, equipped with High-definition camera equipment, to take photos of the abandoned buggy.
"Has it been ripped to shreds by micrometeorids, or is it still standing there like on the day they left?" says Karsen Becker, the team's rover driver told New Scientist. "This is scientifically a very interesting site for us."
Apollo 17, which included three days on the lunar surface, is the last manned lunar landing. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum reported that of all the Apollo Missions, the Apollo 17 astronauts traversed the greatest distance using the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) and returned the greatest amount of rock and soil samples. The astronauts covered a distance of 35 km with a time on the lunar surface of 75 hr.