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Lunar Outpost Successfully Integrates MIT Payloads into Mission 1 MAPP Rover

The aerospace company is paving the way for historic lunar exploration

21 September 2023

Lunar Outpost, a pioneering leader in autonomous robotics, proudly announces the successful integration of three cutting-edge payloads from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) into their ground-breaking Mission 1 MAPP Rover. This significant achievement propels Lunar Outpost towards its historic mission as the first commercial rover on the Moon and the maiden expedition to the lunar South Pole.

A major milestone was reached in August 2021 when Lunar Outpost passed NASA's Critical Design Review, a crucial step preceding launch integration. Following launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the M1-MAPP Rover will embark on its lunar journey aboard an Intuitive Machines Nova-C Lander.

Among other remarkable payloads being integrated are three from MIT: a high-resolution camera designed to capture footage for astronaut training in extravehicular activity, a miniature swarm robot dubbed AstroAnt which is designed to conduct inspections of lunar settlement infrastructure, and a silicon wafer containing a collection of thoughts and reflections in native languages, duly named HUMANS, which highlights the significance of space for humanity.

“We are delighted to have this opportunity to send cutting-edge experiments to the surface of the Moon on a historic mission, as part of MIT’s To the Moon To Stay Program. These three payloads represent core tenets of our research, from autonomous swarm robotics, to supporting future VR-mediated exploration by lunar astronauts, to democratizing access to space through the messages we carry with us. This mission, enabled by NASA CLPS, marks a major milestone for researchers–we can now reach the moon faster and more economically than ever before.”  –Dr. Ariel Ekblaw, Director of the MIT Space Exploration Initiative and PI for MIT’s lunar mission with Lunar Outpost.

MIT’s time-of-flight (ToF) depth camera will provide high resolution near-field depth data that will be used to construct a virtual environment of the lunar surface for scientific research purposes and to support astronaut fieldwork training.

The initial AstroAnt will be used as a technology demonstration, collecting thermal data and measurements of the MAPP rover. Upon a successful mission, it can be deployed in the future as a miniature robotic swarm capable of inspecting and diagnosing spacecraft, rovers, landers, and more. This iteration of the AstroAnt is supported by Castrol, who supplied a special space-grade lubricant to empower the motors to work in the extreme environment of the lunar surface.

Lunar Outpost CSO, Forrest Meyen says, “Autonomous robotic systems like these are paramount to continued space exploration and a sustainable human presence on the Moon and beyond, mitigating risks to human crews, enhancing system performance, and supporting mission success.”

MIT also added a third payload called "Humanity United with MIT Art and Nanotechnology" or HUMANS. It’s a silicon wafer that consists of a digital "Record of Our Voices" – thoughts and reflections from individuals around the world in their native languages. HUMANS aims to symbolically unite the world through space and reinforce the idea that space should be accessible to all.

In addition to the remarkable MIT payloads, the Lunar Outpost MAPP rover will also carry a 4G/LTE payload from Nokia Bell Labs and a private key of bitcoin with LunarCrush. Furthermore, the rover will collect regolith for NASA, marking the first-ever sale of space resources.

Alongside its esteemed partners and collaborators, Lunar Outpost continues to push the boundaries of space exploration, leveraging ground-breaking technologies, and driving innovation to unlock the mysteries of the Moon and beyond.


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