Puli, the future lunar robot, currently being developed by Puli Space Technologies will take off from Earth, land and ‘walk‘ on the Moon, and explore the lunar surface in 2015. The project scope covers the elaboration of a functional mission design, research and development of missing components, building a functional robot and managing its mission to space.
Founded in 2010 by physicist, Dr. Tibor Pacher, Puli Space Technologies’ vision is to exploit existing and future potentials in research, development and commercialization of the space technologies sector in Hungary and to benefit from the high level of engineering and scientific know-how among Hungarian scientists and students. Puli Space Technologies also hopes to attract talents to the scientific sphere, and to establish and foster a solid foundation of a local, highly profitable commercial space technologies segment.
The initial idea for Puli Space Technologies came in 2010 with the announcement and invitation to a competition organized by Google Lunar X Prize with a declared mission of “bringing radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity, thereby inspiring the formation of new industries and the revitalization of markets that are currently stuck due to existing failures or a commonly held belief that a solution is not possible.” [Source: X Prize Foundation]
Google Lunar X Prize is a competition – funded by X Prize non-profit foundation and sponsored by Google – with monetary awards totaling to 30 million USD “to the first privately funded teams who build robots that successfully land on the lunar surface, explore the Moon by moving at least 500 meters (~1/3 of a mile), and return high definition video and imagery. The competition’s grand prize is worth 20 million USD.” [Source: X Prize] Ultimate goal of this event is certainly not to compete with the well-financed NASA, but to find new ways, cost-effective and commercially viable technologies that can be applied later on in our daily lives.
The competition requires participating teams to finance their projects mostly via private and institutional investments or donations. This would force competing teams and supporting companies to find solutions with economies of scale and an attractive return on investment for investors. However, funds granted by the government to a certain extent are also permitted. Should a government-funded mission successfully fulfill the requirements, the total amount of financial award will be reduced to 15 million USD.
The Google Lunar X Prize competition is an excellent opportunity for competing teams to attract national and international attention from scientific and investor circles and to put the spotlight on a sector that has a lot of future potential and currently it is not so well known by the public. Currently there are 23 teams competing from 43 countries. Puli Space Technologies offers different levels of sponsorship and cooperation opportunities to companies already active in this sector and to investors interested in investing in a promising field.
Supported and coached by Marton Deak, responsible for education and public outreach at Puli Space Technologies, the HungaRobot team consisting of IT savvy and science interested high school students from Sopron, Hungary participated at the ‘Moonbots: A Google Lunar X PRIZE LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Challenge‘ competition in December 2012 and finished at the fantastic 1st place. The project involved a simulation of lunar missions and the team was able to develop an innovative Rover robot made out of Lego modules that was covered with solar panels.
Besides the Moonbot project, Puli Space Technologies is present at several locations in Hungary to test its Puli – the lunar robot – on different terrains and also to be able to promote its project among university and high school students as well as to attract future talents to scientific careers. It is definitely an exemplary approach with a longterm plan and a wide horizon.
[Update: article was updated January 23, 2013]
Source of images: courtesy of Puli Space Technologies and Google Lunar X Prize.