Astrobotic & NASA Partner Up to Plan Griffin's Moon Landing
By Nick Azer on July 24, 2015
Landing on the Moon: a lot harder than it looks!
Landing any kind of spacecraft on the Moon can be a big challenge---even for a relatively flat area like the Sea of Tranquility, where the Apollo 11 mission nearly had to abort their landing due to a bunch of very inconveniently-placed boulders!
So as a result, for any Moon mission, the development & testing of the lunar guidance systems (GN&C) becomes paramount to a successful trip---and for this, Google Lunar XPRIZE team Astrobotic has partnered up for a big collaboration with NASA!
That video is the actual flight trajectory that Astrobotic plans to use for a landing in Lacus Mortis. A pretty cool preview!
After landing near an unexplored Moon cave, the 'Griffin' lander plans to release the moon rovers of several Google Lunar XPRIZE teams (including Astrobotic, Hakuto, and potentially more), who will then all have a 'NASCAR'-style race on the surface, before conducting the first-ever investigation of the nearby cave (which, could make for a nice, cozy, and safe place for a manned base!). Brand new exploration in a bold new location:
Lacus Mortis, next stop. The "Lake of Death" houses a Moon cave which could shelter a future, underground human base.
To generate this landing trajectory---and test it with their planned flight software---Astrobotic tagged up with NASA's big Lunar CATALYST program to secure some top-flight data and practice for refining that always-tricky lunar approach.
Mountains and rocks do not mix well with multi-million dollar spacecraft. Especially ones that have tens of millions of dollars of customers' cargo on them. So, you've got to fly carefully!
This is a big milestone for the team, and partnerships like this with NASA will only further serve to drive down the costs of building a base, and further exploring, the Moon!
There's more likes this sure to come (as NASA and others embrace the new space race), and it's a primary goal of the Google Lunar XPRIZE to create a new era of affordable access to the Moon, so there's some exciting times ahead! Stay tuned.