Andy, the Carnegie Mellon-designed lunar robot, can really get around.

Proof of the four-wheeled wonder’s ability to survive the moon’s environment has helped secure CMU partner Team Astrobotic one of two Milestone Prize awards, announced December 16.

In pursuit of the coveted Google Lunar XPRIZE, Team Astrobotic has earned the $500,000 Milestone award for its mobility subsystems, demonstrating that the Andy Rover can traverse 500 meters on the lunar surface—which is also one of the conditions for winning the coveted XPRIZE.

Judged by a panel of science, aeronautic and space industry experts over the past year, the team won an additional Milestone Prize, worth $250,000, for its imaging system development that demonstrated its camera could operate in a thermal vacuum and capture, compress and transmit high-definition video from the moon’s terrain and lighting.

The Astrobotic Team will utilize the $750,000 award to continue the development of both technologies, imaging and mobility, for the first commercialized lunar landing, says Astrobotic’s CEO John Thornton.

“The award of these Milestone Prizes is evidence that the partnership between Astrobotic and Carnegie Mellon is powerful and that our technologies are setting the pace for the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams,” says Thornton. “We feel confident that we can land on the moon in 2016 and show that a private company can set the course for future lunar exploration.”

The Astrobotic team is also pursuing the landing Milestone Prize expected to be announced in early 2016.

Astrobotic is one of five worldwide teams who were selected to contend for the Milestone Prizes. Other groups hail from Japan, India, Germany, and another North American team, Moon Express.

“Over the past year, the judging panel has been consistently impressed with the progress seen from the five teams selected to contend for the Milestone Prizes,” says David Swanson, chairman, Google Lunar XPRIZE judging panel in a statement. “It goes without saying that space exploration comes with a myriad of challenges, yet the enthusiasm and teamwork exhibited by these competitors has been second to none, exceeded only by their adept technical expertise.”

Laurie Bailey

Laurie Bailey is a freelance writer who has reported for many local publications. When she isn't writing she serves as a media consultant for nonprofits and other local companies.