Caterpillar’s previous funding for Carnegie Mellon University’s driverless vehicle enabled it to win a contest ‘2007 Urban Challenge’ organized by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). Further enhancements were made in the codes and sensors used in the driverless car which in turn helps to direct the spacecraft carrying the robot to the moon.
Eric Reiners, Caterpillar’ Automation Systems Manager expressed his happiness over partnering with CMU and he said that the learning obtained from the robotic expedition to lunar surface will be applied towards developing their Cat equipment. He added that the technology base of CMU’s driverless vehicle has led to further research thereby enabling them to automate their large trucks used for mining.
CMU and Astrobotic have spent around $3 million to develop lunar expedition designs and the robot’s prototype models, which can sustain extreme temperature of lunar soil that strikes 224°F at noon. According to Dr. Red Whittaker, Director of CMU’s Field Robotics Center, the huge challenge for the robots will be to work during the day time of the moon. This can be enabled by incorporating the technique used by Caterpillar’s tough electronics for sustaining severe environmental conditions.
Caterpillar’ expertise in automated mining and construction machines will enable it to make the best use of the moon’s resources for increased productivity. For instance, polar ice deposits can be used for refueling the spacecraft for its return trip to earth.
As a part of the robotic expedition to the moon, Astrobotic has developed light weight robotic excavators, thereby completing the preliminary phase of NASA agreement.