A team of students is about to beat NASA to a lunar first: sending a rover to the Moon before they have. The team of students from Carnegie Mellon University expect the Iris rover, and an additional sculpture project named MoonArk, to launch on May 4.
"Hundreds of students have poured thousands of hours into Iris. We've worked for years toward this mission, and to have a launch date on the calendar is an exciting step," student and commander of the Iris mission, Raewyn Duvall, said in a press release. "Iris will open up lunar and space exploration by proving that a tiny, lightweight rover built by students can succeed on the moon."
Once on the Moon, the Iris rover will spend its 60-hour mission exploring the surface and sending back photographs to Earth. The vehicle will be the first un-crewed American rover on the Moon, joining rovers from China. It will also be the first student-developed lunar rover, and the smallest and lightest moon rover to date.
MoonArk, a project 10 years in the making, will be left on the Moon as a time capsule. The lightweight sculpture contains a selection of images, music, nano-objects, poems, and other samples from Earth. The intention is that the sculpture will be lost, and rediscovered by humanity far off in the distant future.
"Context is such an important part of deconstructing art, and when you remove those contexts you have a whole new set of challenges," MoonArk project manager, Dylan Vitone, said in a press release about the project in 2019. "We wanted to build a narrative off of our universal experiences that's moving to people now, but also 1,000 years down the road."
The two projects are penciled in to be launched on May 4, traveling on a United Launch Alliance rocket, before landing on the Moon in the Peregrine lunar lander.