Carnegie Mellon Is Sending Music, Poems, and a Shoebox with Wheels to the Moon

We're starting to learn what will be in the first NASA Artemis science package.

carnegie mellon small robot
Carnegie Mellon

More details are emerging about what exactly will be heading to the Moon as part of NASA's Artemis program. The Agency recently announced three private partners with its (CLPS) program to deliver scientific payloads to the Moon. One of them will be a four-wheeled robotic rover and arts package from Carnegie Mellon University.

“Carnegie Mellon is one of the world’s leaders in robotics. It’s natural that our university would expand its technological footprint to another world,” says J. Michael McQuade, CMU’s vice president of research, in a . “We are excited to expand our knowledge of the moon and develop lunar technology that will assist NASA in its goal of landing astronauts on the lunar surface by 2024.”

Led by William “Red” Whittaker, a professor at CMU's Field Robotics Institute, the robotic "shoebox with wheels," as it is called on campus, weighs under 4 pounds. It's a far cry from either the Soviet or Chinese rovers that have driven on lunar soil, which is exactly the point. CMU is trying to do for other-worldly rovers what CubeSats have done for satellites: make them more affordable and available to a wider public.

“CMU robots have been on land, on the sea, in the air, underwater and underground,” Whittaker says.“The next frontier is the high frontier.”

The arts package, meanwhile, is an 8-oz. cylinder called that, according to CMU, consists of "four elaborate chambers that contain hundreds of images, poems, music, nano-objects, mechanisms, and earthly samples intertwined through complex narratives that blur the boundaries between worlds seen and unseen."

landed today! Extremely meaningful for us to start the exhibition circuit here.

— MoonArk (@CMU_MoonArk)
moonark
A spread apart version of the MoonArk.
CMU

“If this is the next step in space exploration, let’s put that exploration into the public consciousness,” says Mark Baskinger, associate professor in the CMU School of Design, who co-led the MoonArk initiative with Lowry Burgess, a space artist who has worked with NASA. “Why not get people to look up and think about our spot in the universe, and think about where we are in the greater scheme of things?”

MoonArk, according to the , was also conceived with the company that's taking the project to its final destination: Astrobotic, a Pittsburgh robotics company that was among the three winners of NASA contracts. In Astrobotic's case, it's worth $79.5 million. CMU says it " independently negotiated" with the company to earn a place among the 14 payloads it will bring to the Moon.

Come 2021, the Astrobotic lander will head toward a region of the Moon best identified by a hexagonal crater known as Lacus Mortis, or Lake of Death. Mortis has piqued scientists' curiosity because it might hold .

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