MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Nvidia Corp.’s mobile Tegra platform may be about to take one small step for man, and a giant leap for mankind, with news that team Synergy Moon plans to use the chip in its bid to win the $30 million Google Lunar X-Prize challenge.
The international competition involves being able to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon, travel 500 meters over the lunar surface and send images and data back to the Earth.
In order to win the cash prize, team Synergy Moon has partnered with former Mars Rover Simulator scientist Martin Peniak, who plans to build an Nvidia Tegra based moon rover with autonomy of movement, programmed using the firm’s CUDA programming language.
Despite being based on Nvidia’s Tegra 3 mobile application processor, the team has decided to call its robots Tesla Lunar Rover and Tesla Surveyor.
“The Tesla Surveyor is a spherical rover, designed as a virtual excursion vehicle. Equipped with twin high definition video cameras for stereoscopic vision, the Tesla Surveyor will take viewers on a trip across the surface of the moon,” said Synergy Moon on its website.
Meanwhile, the Tesla Prospector will be a more traditional four wheeled rover, designed as a virtual prospector, with sensors and cameras to examine the environment and identify the mineral content of the rocks and lunar regolith.
The team said its Tesla rovers would be equipped with twin cameras for stereoscopic vision, as well as sporting an internet-based control system to allow tourists, scientist and prospectors to take the rovers’ reigns for a virtual excursion on the moon.
“Both the Telsa Prospector and Surveyor will be capable of autonomous operations, able to take care of themselves and carry out exploration missions on their own, saving their observations for later transmission to earth or streaming near real time video of their adventures,” said the team.
The Tesla Prospector, Synergy Moon added, would also carry a set of microbots “to carry out specialized scientific and artistic projects.”
The team plans to release its autonomous lander, packed with Tegra-based rovers, from an orbiter to the moon, with a tentative launch date of December 2012.
There are currently over 20 registered teams working toward landing on the Moon and completing Google’s mission objectives.
According to the rules, all teams must be at least 90% privately funded and must have been registered to compete by December 31, 2010.
The winning team will be awarded $20 million if the mission is achieved by December 31, 2012. After that date, the first prize drops to $15 million. The second place team will be awarded $5 million and a further $5 million will be awarded in bonus prizes. The final deadline for winning the prize is December 31, 2014.
You can watch a simulated demo of what Synergy Moon believes its rover will look like, below: