The criteria for winning the grand $20 million Google Lunar XPrize seems fairly straightforward: land on the moon, cross a distance of 500 meters and send back high-definition footage to Earth along the way. The natural solution to the problem, indeed the one that most of the GLXP competitors have envisioned, is to gently deposit a rover on the lunar surface and then let it pick its way across the required distance, dodging rocks and other moon junk along the way.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based Moon Express team, however, is taking a rather different approach. If all goes according to plan, the team’s lander will make a soft, controlled landing on the moon, look around in high-definition, then lift off again. The lander will touch down a second time at a location at least 500 meters away from the first, completing the challenge and, if it does it before any of the other teams, taking home the $20 million Grand Prize
Moon Express is testing its MTV-1X — that is, its “Moon Express Test Vehicle 1 – XPrize Version.” Or, more colloquially, the “flying donut,” thanks to its toroidal shape. This is effectively a prototype for the final landing vehicle, the MX-1. The MX-1 will be launched into orbit atop a rather large rocket, fly itself across the approximately 240,000 miles to the moon and then orbit there a few times before touching down.
The Moon Express approach is interesting not only because it lacks a rover, but because the MX-1 is basically a flying fuel tank. The structure of the lander is itself the tank with the necessary thrusters, solar cells, cameras and other equipment attached.
SOURCES – Youtube, CNET, Moon Express