It was bound to happen one day — the highways an byways of planet Earth no longer prove a challenging enough terrain for automakers, so now, they’re headed to the moon. At last week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, German automaker Audi debuted a brand new lunar rover that makes use of its famous Quattro all-wheel-drive system, appropriately named the Audi Lunar Quattro. And better yet, the little robot is 3D-printed, comprised of titanium and aluminium.
Audi showing a lunar rover. Must be AWD. #NAIAS2016#NAIAS pic.twitter.com/ru5QULdQGn
— Kathy Renwald (@kathyrenwald) January 11, 2016
While Elon Musk has somewhat bridged the gap between space exploration and automobiles with his two companies, SpaceX and Tesla, it’s certainly interesting to see Audi using its own technology to send a robot of its own making to the moon. Well, not entirely of its own making. Audi has partnered with Berlin-based Part-Time Scientists to manufacture the lunar rover, and has already tested the robot “in rough terrain around the world.”
The entire project is part of the Google Lunar XPrize challenge, an initiative that first launched back in 2007 and comes with $30 million prize. The goal, according to the contest website, is to “incentivize space entrepreneurs to create a new era of affordable access to the Moon and beyond,” and has already seen huge innovations from companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin.
But don’t count Audi out of the running — in fact, the Audi Lunar Quattro, with its multiple cameras, solar panel, and prominent Audi logo, is one of 16 remaining contestants in the challenge. And better still, it’s slated for a 2017 liftoff, according to Viknesh Vijayenthiran of Motor Authority. Once it gets to the moon, the Quattro will be controlled entirely by a control center here on Earth, and will hope to move 500 meters along the lunar surface, sending photos back to our home planet all along the way.
It’s a lofty goal, especially considering that man hasn’t actually stepped foot on the moon in four decades. But with projects like those coming out of XPrize, that may soon change. “If you bring the right technology back to the Moon, you can pave the way for more exploration,” Robert Böhme, CEO of PT Scientists, told The Verge. “And not just exploration, but also to find a commercial benefit for future missions … There is value that you can take away from being on the surface of the Moon. It’s important to show what could be done.”