Reason No. 1 we want Germany to go to the moon: They'll make it the most stylish mission ever.
At the Detroit Auto Show, German auto manufacturer Audi showed off the Audi Lunar Quattro, a mostly aluminum, four-wheeled, unmanned moon rover emblazoned with the Audi logo, armed with multiple cameras and a big solar panel to keep it moving. It's part of the Google Lunar XPrize challenge, a $30 million competition to land a privately funded robot on the moon — that is, one without government agency ties. According to the program's website, the idea is to get space entrepreneurs like SpaceX and Blue Origin to "create a new era of affordable access to the moon and beyond."
The prize money will go to a team that can land its rover on the moon, travel 500 meters (or about five football fields) and send high-definition video and images back to Earth. But to win, the rover must complete its mission by the end of 2017, and the Audi team, self-dubbed the Part-Time Scientists, needs to prove that 90% of the costs were funded by private sources.
Which is convenient, because Audi isn't exactly chomping at the bit for cash.
As of right now, the little rover's target is the old landing site of the Apollo 17 mission — the last manned mission to the moon — north of the moon's equator. According to Audi, the rover can go about 3.6 kilometers per hour, or 2.2 miles per hour. If our math is right, it would take the rover about 7 minutes to win the $30 million once it lands — though the moon isn't exactly as smooth as the autobahn. To test it, the Part-Time Scientists took the rover to the Austrian Alps and Tenerife in Spain's Canary Islands.
The Lunar Quattro is in the final round of competitors. Barring a late admission from an actual Star Wars BB-8, things are looking up for the little German astrobot.