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'Part-Time Scientists' Try to Put Vehicle on Moon

Sixteen teams from around the world have set their sights on the moon. The teams are also hoping to win the $30 million Lunar XPRIZE.

Google, the U.S. technology company, launched the international space competition in 2007. The goal is to use private financing to build a planetary rover and send it to the moon. This vehicle also has to travel 500 meters on the moon’s surface, and send high quality video and images back to earth. All the work is to be completed at less than what a public lunar project would cost.

One team from Germany is close to getting funding for its rover. They call themselves the Part-Time Scientists.

Robert Boehme founded the “Part-Time Scientists.” He says his team has been working on its lunar rover since 2008. The vehicle has an adjustable solar panel, which creates electricity from the sun’s light. It also has three cameras and four strong tires.

Mr. Boehme says his team is using parts that were designed for smaller electronics and satellites.

"Using technology -- which is kind of not intended to send something to the moon -- is always very risky, so we have to really slim down everything so that it fits into a less than four ton payload vehicle."

Cost is also a concern. Mr. Boehme says his team is making its rover as high-tech as possible.

"So what we wanted to try to do was to make as much as hi-tech -- as you would call -- available for space applications, so that you have more processing power for less energy. Energy is the No. 1 constraint in space. And that really cuts down to our mission costs."

Mr. Boehme expects the project to cost less than $30 million. He hopes to have signed an agreement for a launch vehicle by the end of the year. His team hopes to send the rover on its way to the moon by the end of 2017.

The 15 other teams in the competition are from the United States and nine other countries. They are Brazil, Canada, Chile, Hungary, Japan, India, Israel, Italy and Malaysia.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

VOA’s Faith Lapidus reported on this story from Washington. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

lunar adj. of or relating to the moon

rover n. a vehicle used for exploring the surface of a moon or planet (a rover is sometimes called a planetary rover)

adjustable – adj. changing something in a minor way to make it work better

solar - adj. related to the sun

slim – adj. thin or small in size

payload – n. the goods or material carried by a vehicle

mission – n. a job or project

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