As part of a bid to claim the Google Lunar X Prize, Carnegie Mellon University and Astrobotic Technology have completed structural assembly work on a lunar lander designed to deliver a roving robot to the surface of the moon in 2014.
Taking off from Cape Canaveral, the lander will ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which had a successful maiden flight last year, on its four-day journey to the moon.
The craft will attempt a pinpoint landing, which would be a significant achievement. After deploying, the solar-powered, four-wheeled Red Rover will beam HD video in 3D to Earth as it explores the moon's Sea of Tranquility.
The $30 million Lunar X Prize is aimed at fostering the first private launch that sends a robot to the moon. It has to travel some 500 yards and send video, images, and data to Earth.
The 5-foot-tall, half-ton aluminum lander has solar panels that can provide 500 watts of power, rechargeable batteries, eight thrusters, and four fuel tanks carrying almost 2 tons of propellant.
It will be able to carry the 173-pound Red Rover, which is mostly covered with solar panels under its camera mast, as well as 242 pounds of commercial payload.
The lander is set to be tested for structural integrity at a Boeing facility in El Segundo, Calif. Check out some pics of the assembly here.
Below is a video showing what Red Rover might look like as it negotiates the lunar terrain during its two weeks on the moon. What will it find at Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's old hangout?