While five teams from across the world are vying to be the first private group to land on the moon as part of the Google Lunar XPrize competition, a sixth team, which did not qualify for the final cut, is still making an effort to be the first on the moon. According to the UK Telegraph, #Part Time Scientists, a team based in Germany, has a Falcon 9 launch contract for early 2018 and are still planning to shoot for the moon.
The PT Scientists plan to land two rovers about two miles away from the #Apollo 17 landing site in the Taurus-Littrow Valley. The rovers, created with the help of Audi, will approach the lunar rover that was left behind when the last mission to the moon lifted off in December 1972. The terrain is flat, relatively free of rocks, and thus should make for an easy journey. The rovers will, hopefully, return images and video from the venue of the last time humans walked on the moon along with data about how exposure for decades on the lunar surface has affected the equipment left behind. Gene Cernan, the commander of Apollo 17, recently passed away.
The German effort will also contain a number of experiments from the United States, Canada, and Sweden. The mission will also include a high-speed data transmission system provided courtesy of Vodafone.
Even if the Part Time Scientists are first back to the moon, the team will not win any prize money since it is no longer part of the Google Lunar XPrize. However, the accomplishment of getting to the moon at all will win the German team no little amount of glory. The technology that the expedition is slated to test will be applicable to the further exploration and eventual settlement of the moon.
2017 is shaping up to be the year that the return to the moon began in earnest. Besides the Google Lunar XPrize and the PT Scientist effort, a number of national space agencies and SpaceX, a private company, are casting their gaze toward Earth’s nearest neighbor. The day is not too far distance when human beings will once again put boots on the lunar soil.