UCF students and alumni work on moon rover project
Published: Sunday, October 14, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 20:10
Rockets, rovers and their mission to the moon was the topic of discussion during Friday afternoon’s open house at Earthrise Space Inc. More than half of the 40-member Earthrise team consists of UCF students and alumni.
ESI is a nonprofit dedicated to developing space technology and collaboration with academic institutions and the space industry, and Friday’s event wasn’t without purpose. During an afternoon press conference, ESI president and UCF alumnus Ruben Nunez made the announcement that the ESI team will be joining forces with Team AngelicvM, from Chile, in an effort to get its rovers to the moon.
It is the first team pairing that has been announced as part of the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition.
“We are the first team to actually fly with another team together to the lunar surface so this is quite the accomplishment and I think it’s a major milestone,” Nunez said.
In order to win GLXP, ESI’s team Omega Envoy will have to get its rover to land on the moon, where it must travel 500 meters and send back data, HD video and panoramic images. The winning team will win a total of $30 million in prize money. While ESI is planning on launching their rover into space at the end of 2014, the final date for the competition is Dec. 31, 2015
“This is something really exciting for all of us,” AngelicvM team leader Gerard Rocha said. “For us to accomplish this task; we were one of the last teams to enter the competition back in December 2010. In Chile, there is no background in the aerospace private industry, so we put ourselves to a challenge and we found common interests.”
ESI invited 181 middle school students from Freedom Middle School to its open house.
“We want a young generation to be involved, and we want them to dream of accomplishing major missions and fulill their dreams," Nunez said. “We plan on bringing in college students, high school students into Earthrise Space Inc. and letting them become familiar with what we’re doing now and in the future.”
Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida, was present to say a few words.
“This is naturally a very exciting competition,” DiBello said. “I believe competition itself is a real enabler for the events of the space industry. We see teams like this and initiatives like this as really a foundation for Florida’s aerospace industry.”
DiBello has been involved with the aerospace industry for more than 40 years and looks forward to continuing his support of ESI.
“I look forward to the day that you’re placing the rover on the moon and we’re all celebrating together,” DiBello said.
ESI comprises 40 team members, 33 of whom are students.
“We’re all about inspiration,” Jason Rhian, ESI’s public relations officer, said. “The great thing about this company is that they not only said OK we’re excited about NASA, they got so excited they built their own company and they’re going to make a rover that is going to win the Google Lunar X PRIZE and land on the moon."
Members of the team, which was formed in 2008, have no doubts that they will succeed in their endeavor.
“We will make it to the moon and we will win this contest,” Michelle Bruder, a UCF junior and advertising & public relations major, said. Bruder serves as ESI’s executive assistant.
“You can see their forward thinking,” Rocha said.
“The driving philosophy behind ESI is to keep space exploration in Central Florida,” Rhian said. “We basically wanted to say, ‘Here we are, we’re everything NASA’s been asking for. We’re all that and a bag of chips.’”