There are several teams competing for Google’s Lunar XPRIZE. One team is going their own way, because instead of using just one robot, the team, Hakuto (which is Japanese for rabbit), is using two. The following information comes from Space.com’s recent post about Hakuto and the robot duo they are prototyping.
The bigger robot, looking like a white breadbox with white paddle wheels, is named Moonraker, while the smaller one, looking like a metal mini-vacuum cleaner, is called Tetris (right, I don’t know how they paired the names either). Tetris is designed to be towed by Moonraker across the moon’s surface. A fancier Tetris, one made of carbon fiber, seems to be coming up, though.
The “tow-line” can be extended, so Tetris can wander off a bit and explore craters and caves, using the line, still attached to Moonraker, to keep it from falling into a hole. This particular robotic duo doesn’t just explore the moon’s surface, but can also get a glimpse of what is under it. To get an idea of how the whole system works, there’s a video, also on Space.com’s site, but Youtube also just so happens to have it, so the video is shown below.
Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles also feature prominently in the demonstration as part of a human interface to the rovers. Not sure if the VR gogglemaker foresaw this particular application for their goggles. I am also not too sure how practical VR goggles would be for controlling rovers on other planets, considering time delays and possible bandwidth constraints.
However, Tetris, Moonraker, and the virtual reality goggles conspire to make an interesting lunar explorer concept with flexibility, although it’s also a little more complicated. Hopefully all of Hakuto’s work will be rewarded in some way.