Tech Entrepreneurs Race to Get a Rover on the Moon and Win $30 Million The next rover to roam the moon's surface may come not from NASA and its rocket scientists but from college students and private companies working on a shoestring By Michael Belfiore THIS IS A PREVIEW. Buy this digital issue or subscribe to access the full article. Already a subscriber or purchased this issue? Sign In Photograph by Andrew Hetherington On a muddy, rubble-strewn field on the banks of the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh, a five-foot-tall pyramidal robot with twin camera eyes slowly rotates on four metal wheels, its electric motors emitting a low whine. In a nearby trailer, students from Carnegie Mellon University huddle around a laptop to watch the world through the robot’s eyes. In the low-resolution grayscale images on the laptop’s screen, the rutted landscape looks a lot like the moon, which is the robot’s ultimate destination. Carnegie Mellon robotics professor William “Red” Whittaker and his students built Red Rover to win the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a competition designed to boost the role of private companies in space and inspire innovation in spaceflight technology. The winning prize is $20 million, which will go to the first nongovernment team that lands a robot on the moon, gets the robot to travel half a mile or so, and sends high-definition video back to Earth—all by the end of 2015. A second-place prize of $5 million, along with bonuses for other achievements such as reaching the site of an Apollo landing, brings the total purse to $30 million. Although 26 teams are competing, Whittaker’s team is a clear leader. His firm, Astrobotic Technology, was the first team to make a down payment on a rocket that will carry its spacecraft and rover to the moon. Whittaker has also proved himself to be a champion builder of autonomous vehicles that can navigate extreme environments. X "Entrepreneurs Race to Get a Rover on the Moon and Win $30 Million" is available in the following issues, please make a selection below Scientific American Volume 306, Issue 4 - $7.99 Add to Cart Conquering Space - $9.99 Add to Cart THIS IS A PREVIEW. Buy Digital Issue or subscribe to access the full article. Already a subscriber or purchased this issue? Sign In Buy Digital Issue $7.99 Add To Cart Digital Issue + Subscription $39.99 Subscribe ADVERTISEMENT Scientific American is a trademark of Scientific American, Inc., used with permission © 2015 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.