June 8, 2009

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Spider Monster

image from Google Lunar X-Prize - Team Italia page

A few decades ago the National Enquirer or a similar sensationalistic/imaginative weekly headlined a bomber that had supposedly disappeared during World War II and now had been discovered on the Moon. The photo showed the plane filling the floor of a crater. Of course, the crater was 50 km or so in diameter so the plane must not only have disappeared but also have grown monstrously large. I thought of that ancient photo when I saw this image promoting the Team Italia proposal for the Google Lunar X-Prize. The team plans to deploy one or more small spider-like robots that can scamper across the lunar surface. Their promotional photo superimposes a spider model on an Apollo photo (reversed) of the Western Carpathian Mountains, Based on the lunar photo the spider robot looks like it would be 150 km wide. Promotional photos often have inaccuracies - how many times have you seen reversed images of the Earth with the Atlantic to the right of Africa? - because the goal is to be representational and evocative. This one succeeds - I wish Team Italia luck.

Chuck Wood

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