Hungarian rover takes 'panoramic selfie' to complete Google Lunar XPRIZE mission simulation in Hawaii

January 15, 2014
The Puli rover snaps a 'selfie' showing its whegs in the foreground as it looks back on the completion of its 600 meter mission at the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) in Hawaii. Credit: Puli Space Technologies

Team Puli, the Hungarian team competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, has completed a successful simulation of its lunar rover mission at the Pacific International Space Centre for Exploration Systems (PISCES) in Hawaii. During field tests, the Puli rover drove 600 meters across soft, loose soil similar to the lunar regolith and broadcast high-resolution images and video from its starting and end points. To claim the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a team must land a robotic craft on the Moon and explore the lunar surface, covering a distance of at least 500 meters, as well as transmit footage and pictures back to Earth of the landing site, the journey and final resting site.

The new PISCES facility, which opened in early 2013, is located on the slopes of Mauna Kea. Its volcanic soil and terrain is widely acknowledged as being among the closest analogs to found on Earth.

During 8 days of testing during December at the PISCES lunar analog site, the Puli team verified several core aspects of their Google Lunar XPRIZE mission. These included the planning processes for the rover's route from the landing site using satellite imagery, testing the rover's mobility across lunar analog terrains with slopes up to 40 degrees in places, and trialling the Mission Control software, both for the rover and with a second vehicle playing the part of the landing craft for the simulation. Mission Control for the simulation was located in Budapest Town Hall, Hungary, from where Team Puli will control its actual Google Lunar XPRIZE attempt.

"The Puli rover has a unique wheel-leg (wheg) construction, designed explicitly for rough terrain," explained Puli team leader Dr. Tibor Pacher. "This is not the first time that Puli has been tested in analog sites – we took part in a field test in Morocco in early 2013 – but the PISCES facility offers the most challenging and realistic scenario that our rover has faced to date. To simulate the Mooncast that we will need to transmit back from the Moon, we have completed a 'Maunacast' with panoramic shots of our start and finish sites, waypoint identifications and distant verifications. We are delighted with how the Puli rover has performed."

The Puli rover, after completing its 600 meter lunar simulation at the PISCES facility in Hawaii. Credit: Puli Space Technologies

Members of Team Puli had already visited the PISCES facility in their role as mentors to the Hungarobots, the winning team of the 2012 MoonBots LEGO Mindstorms Challenge. The Hungarobots, who are students at a high school in Sopron, Hungary, won a VIP trip to test their LEGO lunar robots at the PISCES facility, which has a strong commitment to education and public outreach.

The Puli rover climbing to reach its target destination during the lunar simulation mission in Hawaii. Credit: Puli Space Technologies

"Because of Hungary's strong traditions in engineering and science I saw huge opportunities in a Hungarian Google Lunar XPRIZE project to create sustainable values – in education and society as well as engineering," said Pacher. "Team Puli was extremely happy and proud last year when the junior version of the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, MoonBots, was won for the first time by a European – Hungarian – team. Through initial contacts made during the Hungarobots trip to PISCES, we have developed further links with PISCES and are now testing the hardware for our actual lunar mission here. Our participation in a STEM project has not only provided an inspirational opportunity for the students, but has actually helped us in reaching our goal to send a spacecraft to the Moon."

Explore further: NASA Conducts Mission Simulations in Hawaii

Related Stories

NASA Conducts Mission Simulations in Hawaii

July 18, 2012

( -- NASA is conducting a nine-day field test starting Tuesday outside Hilo, Hawaii, to evaluate new exploration techniques for the surface of the moon. These mission simulations, known as analog missions, are performed ...

Roaring to the Moon, Lunar Lion pays launch reservation fee

November 25, 2013

The Lunar Lion, a Moon lander designed and built by the Penn State Lunar Lion team, the only university-led team in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, will be sent into space as part of a multiple spacecraft effort coordinated ...

China moon rover enters lunar orbit

December 6, 2013

China's first lunar rover entered the moon's orbit on Friday, state media reported, a key step towards the vessel's planned landing later this month.

China's lunar lander spotted by orbiting spacecraft

December 31, 2013

Not much on the Moon escapes the eyes of NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and China's Chang'e-3 lander and Yutu rover are no exception! The pair touched down on the lunar surface on Dec. 14, and just over a week later ...

Recommended for you

NASA selects investigations for future key planetary mission

October 1, 2015

NASA has selected five science investigations for refinement during the next year as a first step in choosing one or two missions for flight opportunities as early as 2020. Three of those chosen have ties to NASA's Jet Propulsion ...

Dawn team shares new maps and insights about Ceres

October 1, 2015

Mysteries and insights about Ceres are being discussed this week at the European Planetary Science Conference in Nantes, France. NASA's Dawn spacecraft is providing scientists with tantalizing views and other data about the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.