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Audi lunar quattro

Kate Arkless Gray / PT Scientists

Audi lunar quattro

A team of scientists has successfully tested one of the world’s first privately-funded moon rovers in Qatar’s Zekreet desert this past weekend.

Part Time (PT) Scientists from Germany is aiming to launch its Audi Lunar Quattro into by space next year.

They have been testing the device on glaciers, mountains and volcanoes, but this was the first time the rover has tried out the desert.

Testing the rover in Qatar's Zekreet desert.

Kate Arkless Gray

Testing the rover in Qatar’s Zekreet desert.

To the scientists’ surprise, the device found that the best way to handle sand dunes was by going backwards.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s intense heat did pose a challenge, according to Torsten Kriening, a Middle East consultant for PT Scientists.

 

The moon rover is in the running for a Google X Prize. According to the terms of that competition, the first group to get their rover to travel 500m on the moon and send high-resolution video, still images and other data back home wins $20 million.

Desert findings

Qatar’s desert is home to several types of sand, which made it an optimal location to test the rover’s sustainability and durability.

For a first-time test, the results were generally positive, but some changes will need to made, Kriening said during a media briefing today.

“We found that slopes were a challenge. For some reason, the rover did better going up backwards on the dunes,” he added.

Thermal frames of the rover, showing various temperatures it endured in the desert heat.

PT Scientists

Thermal frames of the rover, showing various temperatures it endured in the desert heat.

The team used a thermal imaging camera to see how the rover would perform at different temperatures and noticed that the engines in particular struggled with the high temperatures.

In a statement, it said:

“With thermal imaging we’ve determined how the heat after longer drives is working its way through the systems. We’ve found that our 3D-printed aluminum wheels seem to transport a bit better than we anticipated thus the inner driving motors heated up pretty quickly. However the important circuits and parts still remained good to work in operational temperature ranges.”

On the plus side, PT Scientists CEO Robert Boehme said that the rover traveled well over soft sand, which is similar to lunar sand.

Speaking to Doha News, he said this is because a lot of the device has been 3D printed and is lightweight.

On the other hand, the rover may not be heavy enough for harder sand.

With these findings in hand, the team hopes to make the necessary adjustments before performing a full functioning analog test, during which operators will be in a different location than the rover.

ALINA

Two of these rovers are expected to go to space via the Autonomous Landing and Navigation Module (ALINA), a lunar lander also developed by the team for the Google Lunar X Prize competition.

PT Scientists' lunar lander, ALINA

PT Scientists

PT Scientists’ lunar lander, ALINA

After this mission is completed, ALINA, which can carry up to 100kg of payload, will be used to help universities and research teams carry out experiments in space by transporting their equipment.

This will allow them to complete experiments through a private entity, rather than wait for government approval. It will also help them hold on to their own intellectual property rights, PT Scientists said.

Thoughts?

Audi lunar quattro

Part Time Scientists

Audi lunar quattro

A team of scientists who hope to put the world’s first privately-funded rover on the moon will be in Qatar this week to test their device under grueling desert conditions.

Part Time (PT) Scientists will head to south Zekreet with their Audi Lunar Quattro this weekend and scope out different locations there.

Speaking to Doha News, PT Scientists CEO Robert Boehme said the team was scouting for a site that best resembles the “harsh environment of our target on the moon, the Taurus-Littrow Valley.”

Bir Zekreet

[email protected] Abdelmaksoud/Flickr

Bir Zekreet

He continued:

“Within our research we have found the Zekreet desert to be a very likely candidate for our test program because of the well-balanced mixture of smaller rocks, loose sand and steep slopes while still maintaining a good reachability.”

While in the desert, the group will test whether the rover can deal “with the sand and dust of the terrain and prove whether the passive thermal management will work as expected,” PT Scientists said in a statement.

Previously, the device has passed muster on glaciers in Austria, volcanos in Crete, mountains in New Zealand, in the remote Australian Outback and within the laboratories of NASA.

Google competition

PT Scientists has been working on their lunar project for eight years.

They are competing to win the Google Lunar X Prize, which aims to boost exploration by giving private space ventures a total of $30 million in funding.

The first group to get their rover to travel 500m on the moon and send high-resolution video, still images and other data back home wins $20 million.

The runner-up gets $5 million, according to the contest rules.

Google will award additional bonus funds of varying amounts for other tasks, including additional scientific and technical achievements or sending back images of artifacts like lunar landers from the Apollo program.

According to the National, PT Scientist’s rover is made mostly of aluminum, weighs 35kg and can reach speeds of up to 3.6km an hour.

The report added that the team is in the final stage of testing and hopes to start making the 380,000km journey to the moon in November 2017.

Thoughts?

image

The sun has set, and it’s time to look for the moon. If you see it, it’s Eid tomorrow. 


UPDATE | 9:10pm

Eid prayers will be held at some 265 mosques and prayer areas around Qatar at 5:20am. Awqaf has posted a list of locations, which you can see here (Arabic).

UPDATE | 8pm

Both Qatar Television and Al Rayyan have now broadcast the news that Eid will start on Thursday.

The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs also tweeted out best wishes to Qatar’s residents at the start of the holiday:

Eid mubarak!

For those observing the morning prayer, it will be at 5:20am tomorrow at over 200 mosques and Eid grounds. To plan out what to do this holiday, check our Eid guide.


UPDATE | 7:45pm

Tomorrow will be the first day of Eid in Qatar, Al Rayyan TV has confirmed.


UPDATE | 7:01pm

Saudi Arabia next door has declared that Eid al-Fitr begins tomorrow, Thursday, August 8, 2013. 

Saudi scholar Mohamed Al Arefe tweeted out a picture of the moon, spotted before the sun set.

We’ll wait for Qatar’s official announcement, but it looks likely that Eid will be tomorrow…

(via @yacine_hichri, @jawaheralthani)


We’re expecting an announcement around 8pm. As soon as we know if it’s declared (or not), we’ll let you know.

Credit: Photo by Omar Chatriwala