Moon Express has set up a robotics lab for lunar probe named the “Moon Express Robotics Lab for Innovation” (MERLIN) hiring some engineering students who had successfully competed at the First Robotics Competition.
Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx) is a privately funded lunar transportation. and data services company. Essentially, the lab will engage in developing robotics for the moon mining and exploration.
The new project MERLIN will develop robotic technology supporting the company’s lunar exploration missions. It will be headed by Marco Chacin, a Ph. D. graduate of the International Space University. He has specialized in Aerospace Engineering and developed robotic solutions for Japan’s JAXA/ISAS “Hayabusa” asteroid sample return missions.
The engineering team hired by Moon Express was trained by the NASA Ames Robotics Academy, where they developed lunar micro-rover concepts.
“MERLIN is formed around the best and most accomplished young robotics engineers,” said company co-founder and CEO Bob Richards. “FIRST Robotics has inspired their life passion; now they are working to be FIRST on the Moon.”
The MERLIN launch team includes Marco Chacin (Lead), Matt Carberry, Guy Chriqui, Kevin Huang, Cory McBride, Brandon Plaster, EJ Sabathia Jr., Mike Stewart and Krystine Thoroughman.
MERLIN’s initial focus will be on the development, demonstration and flight design of a micro-rover capable of exploration of the lunar surface that is compatible with the lunar lander system being developed by Moon Express engineers in collaboration with NASA. The micro-rovers will complement micro-hopper systems also being developed by the company, providing a flexible and agile lunar mobility system solution.
NASA is the largest sponsor of the FIRST Robotics Competition. Although more than 11,000 students in 600 teams from 29 countries competed in this year’s robotics challenge, Team 254, a NASA Ames-mentored team for the past 14 years, won the 2011 championship.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a long-standing challenge founded by leading American scientist and inventor Dean Kamen, is designed to inspire curiosity and create interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics among high school students.