Feeds

New NASA snap of game developer's electric cart FOUND ON MOON

Probe in low pass over Garriott's radioactive tub-rover

Remote control for virtualized desktops

An orbiting NASA probe has taken new and ultra-detailed pictures of an electric rover vehicle owned by a multimillionaire games developer and space tourist, left abandoned on the Moon after it broke down.

The moon rover Lunokhod 2 as imaged by the LRO in low flight. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Fliptop lid visible still open - see below

The probe in question is our old friend the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has of late lowered its flight path so as to pass still closer to the Moon's surface.

How the Soviet Lunokhod rovers deployed. Credit: NASA.

Glorious solar-nuclear motorised bathtub tech of the 1970s

The electric rover is of course Lunokhod 2, which landed in the Le Monnier crater on the eastern wall of the Mare Serenitatis basin back in 1973. It was sent and operated by the Soviet space programme but it is nowadays owned by Richard Garriott (sometimes aka "Lord British") - the brain behind Ultima among other things - who purchased it at auction in the 1990s. Though Garriott has never so much as been in the vicinity of his moon car, he did get a little closer to it in 2008 when he visited the International Space Station as a paying tourist.

The two Lunokhod rovers were electrically propelled and operated over a near-real-time link by Soviet ground controllers. Their fliptop lids, kept open during the lunar day, held solar panels to charge their batteries. With the onset of the bitterly cold two-week-long lunar nights the rovers would halt and close the lids, keeping their tub-like interiors warm by the use of radioisotopic nuclear heaters.

Lunokhod 2 remains the record-holding vehicle of humanity in terms of distance travelled on the surface of a body other than Earth, having rolled 37km* before unfortunately getting Moon dirt all over its heat radiator assembly while scrambling over a crater rim. The resulting runaway overheating crippled the plucky vehicle and put an end to the mission. The exact location of its resting place remained a mystery until the LRO came on the scene – the Moon being poorly surveyed until then.

Since the initial discovery of Mr Garriott's lost, radioactive broken moon car, the boffins controlling the LRO have made it zoom still lower above the lunar surface (it can orbit very low due to the Moon's lack of atmosphere), furnishing us with this week's enhanced pics.

There's more from the LRO boffins here. ®

Bootnote

*Despite their much greater longevity and technical sophistication the more recent NASA Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity have failed to beat Lunokhod 2's record thus far. This is due to the Martian sunlight being relatively weak, so that their solar panels can't generate as much juice: Spirit and Opportunity also make very little use of nuclear technology, meaning that much of their scarce 'leccy must be used in heaters - so leaving less for propulsion. The Lunokhods largely avoided this latter problem by the use of Polonium-powered radioisotope heating to keep themselves alive through the bitter lunar nights.

Spirit, now permanently offline, will never get the chance to beat Lunokhod 2's record: but Opportunity (which has rolled 34,361m in eight years) might manage it once the rover comes out of hibernation following the present Martian winter. The new and much more powerful NASA rover Curiosity, at present en route to the Red Planet, will almost certainly set a new record if it survives landing in a functional condition, as it doesn't use solar panels at all: it is entirely nuclear-powered and heated.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST
Speculation rife, but Orbital claims it's too early to tell
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management
How using vulnerability assessments to identify exploitable weaknesses and take corrective action can reduce the risk of hackers finding your site and attacking it.