Nvidia's Tegra platform may be heading to the moon next year as part of Google's Lunar X-PRIZE competition. One of the competitors, a privateer team named Team Synergy Moon, plans to use several Tegra systems to create a couple of rovers capable of crawling across the lunar landscape.
So what is Google's Lunar X PRIZE? It's a $30 million competition for the first privately funded team to send a robot to the moon.
"A total of $30 million in prizes are available to the first privately funded teams to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon, have that robot travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send video, images and data back to the Earth," the Lunar X PRIZE site explains. "Teams must be at least 90-percent privately funded, though commercially reasonable sales to government customers are allowed without limit."
To develop their robots, Team Synergy Moon collaborated with Martin Peniak, a young scientist known for his work on the Mars Rover Simulator developed in conjunction with the European Space Agency (ESA). Peniak reportedly chose to take the Tegra route after reading an article about a neural network using Nvidia GPU acceleration. After that, Peniak chose CUDA as a basis for the rovers' development and underlying AI.
As seen on Team Synergy Moon's website, the Tesla Prospector will be the one that fulfills the competition's 500 meter requirement while taking samples and sending images and data back to earth. The team's other robot, the Tesla Surveyor, will be a bit more observant, packing twin HD cameras while rolling across the lunar surface like a silver marble -- a lunar tour guide of sorts.
"Both rovers feature an internet based control system that will allow tourists, scientist and prospectors to take control of the rovers for a virtual excursion on the moon," the team reports. "Both the Telsa Prospector and Surveyor will be capable of autonomous operations, able to take care of themselves and carry out exploration missions on their own, saving their observations for later transmission to earth or streaming near real time video of their adventures. The Tesla Prospector will also carry a set of microbots, that will carry out specialized scientific and artistic projects."
If Team Synergy Moon wins the competition, the rocket sending a manned orbiter -- along with a moon lander containing the two rovers -- will launch in December of 2012.