Berlin, Germany - It's definitely an Audi; it has quattro all-wheel drive, an e-tron battery and Ingolstadt's signature mixed-materials architecture, and drives itself in piloted mode.

But that's where the resemblance to the Audis you usually see on this site ends, because this Audi is designed to go way, way off-road. Three hundred and eighty-five thousand kilometres off-road, in fact - to the moon.

This is the latest version of Audi's lunar quattro, built in collaboration with a German space travel team called the Part-Time Scientists, to compete for Google's Lunar X Prize - a more than $30 million jackpot for the first team to send an unmanned vehicle to the moon, drive it 500 metres and beam back high-resolution pictures.

Over the past few months the Audi engineers have been working on the rover's 'intelligent' all-wheel drive system, refining its electronics and contributing their piloted driving expertise to its control systems.

They've made it a little bigger and increased the size of the wheels, to improve stability and increase the size of the contact patch for better drive on broken surfaces. At the same time, they've reduced its weight from 38kg to 30kg, using 3D aluminium printing and an improved mix of materials.

Mission simulations

The next step, say the Part-Time Scientists, is to stress-test the two Audi lunar rovers, and the Alina lander in which they'll be travelling to the moon, by running complete mission simulations in the Middle East - but they're confident enough to have set a target date for blast-off in late 2017, less than a year away, using a launch booked on a Falcon 9 rocket with Spaceflight, Inc, an interplanetary ride-share broker.

The Alini lander has a payload capacity of 100kg, so, in addition to the two rovers, it'll be able to carry research equipment to the moon for some of the team's partners, including NASA, the European Space Agency ESA and Wikipedia.

The Alina lander will touch down in the Valley of Taurus-Littrow, close to where the Apollo 17 mission landed in 1972; each rover will use its four cameras to find its way around, examine objects and take 3D and 360 degree pictures. Then the plan is to drive to where the original lunar rover from the 1972 mission is still standing and send back high-resolution pictures of it, which would neatly fulfil all the conditions of the Lunar X Prize.

IOL Motoring

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