CMU-Astrobotic team awarded $1 million in race to the moon
January 26, 2015 10:30 PM
John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic, stands in front of the company's Griffin Lander at their headquarters in the Strip District.
By Sean D. Hamill / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For a mission that some have estimated could cost $100 million to accomplish — sending a robotic rover to the moon — $1 million may not seem like a lot of money.
But for the team of Astrobotic and Carnegie Mellon University, which won that money on Monday for achieving some of its goals as part of the Google Lunar XPrize competition, every little bit helps.
The team’s efforts have won it millions in NASA grants and contracts since Astrobotic was founded in 2008, but that money was doled out in small increments.
The result, said Astrobotic CEO John Thornton, is that the $1 million “is the most zeros we’ve ever had on a check.”
The award — which Mr. Thornton and Jon Anderson, a former CMU student who worked on the project, received Monday during a ceremony in San Francisco — was for completing preliminary “Milestone” goals toward the main objective of landing a robotic rover on the moon. Mr. Thornton hopes his team will be headed to the moon in 2016. The award “means we’re going to continue to grow in 2015.”
Astrobotic, headquartered in the Strip District, was formed after CMU entered the Google Lunar XPrize competition, which will award $20 million to the first team to send a robotic rover to the moon, drive it 500 meters and beam back high-definition video of the event.
The $1 million Milestone award for demonstrating accomplishments in the category of landing is in addition to $750,000 that Astrobotic and CMU were awarded in the other two XPrize Milestone categories of mobility and imaging.
XPrize’s judges had selected only five of the 18 teams left in the competition as finalists for the Milestone prizes, which potentially gave each finalist $250,000 if it were selected as a winner in the imaging category, $500,000 in the mobility category and $1 million in the landing category.
The CMU/Astrobotic team was the only one to win money in all three Milestone categories.
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