ECE Professor Seeks Google Lunar X Prize

May 30, 2008

STELLAR Rover - A. Collis, X PRIZE Foundation 
STELLAR Rover - A. Collis, X PRIZE Foundation

Dr. William Edmonson, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NC State University, along with other members of Team STELLAR are taking aim at Google's Lunar X Prize by landing a privately-owned spacecraft on the moon.

Team STELLAR, which stands for Space Technology for Exploration, Lunar Landing, and Roving, was formed in October of 2007 by the leadership of several organizations that have been working together on various other projects for over two years. These organizations included Insight Technologies, The Advanced Vehicle Research Center, several key NC State University faculty members, as well as the NCSU Mechanical Aerospace and Engineering Department.

The X Prize Foundation, the organization that is offering the $30 million prize for the competition, imagines a time when the moon would be used to collect solar energy via solar panels and power the cities of Earth.

They also see the potential for a  launch pad being established on the moon that would be used as a central location of exploration into the further reaches of space.

The Rover they will create for the competition will utilize a proprietary design. It will be fitted into a Landing vehicle, which will be fitted into a transfer vehicle, to be integrated into the payload of a launch vehicle. In addition, one of the partners in Team STELLAR, an NSF I/UCRC called the Advanced Space Technology for Research and Engineering Center (ASTREC) is interested in supporting the establishment of a communication satellite network in lunar orbit to support this and other missions.  NCSU students will also be given to opportunity to give a hand with this big project, however there are other tasks that will require outsourcing to private companies.

The idea of a prize for reaching air and space travel breakthroughs is hardly new.  A prime example of such a contest is the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris in 1927 by Charles Lindbergh.  Lindbergh was incited by a $25,000 prize that was offered by Raymond Ortieg, a French businessman. Because of his effort and and the efforts of others like him, the air travel industry became the huge business that it is today.

Aviation experts are unsure what effect the first successful moon launch will have. Nevertheless they are certain that the advanced mathematics behind space travel are soon to change.

Returning to the moon has certainly been in the plans for the United States and other countries, yet it could take as long as a decade from now.

The deadline for the private competition is set at 2012. Competitors of the competition will be first in line when the government seeks subcontractors for its own efforts in returning to the moon.

Other members of the team include Richard Dell Sr., Richard Dell Jr., Gordon Jeans, Jeff Krukin, Dr. Andre Mazzoleni, and Grayson Randall.  The team is a project of the North Carolina non-profit Advanced Aerospace Resource Center.


Photo By: A. Collis, X PRIZE Foundation