Monday, April 18, 2022

CMU to Build 1st Univ.-Based Space Mission Control

Artist's rendering of the future Moonshot Mission Control Center at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University. (Image Source: Carnegie Mellon University)

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) plans to construct the first University-based Mission Control Center for robotic missions to the Moon. The Moonshot Mission Control Center will be used to control and communicate with CMU-originated Iris and MoonRanger robotic missions to the Moon, scheduled for launch in the next two years.

The Iris robotic mission, scheduled for launch later this year, will be the smallest, first American, first university-built, and first student-built rover on the Earth's Moon. Scheduled for launch in 2023, MoonRanger will be the first rover to search for evidence of water on the lunar surface and will explore the Moon's South Pole.

"Carnegie Mellon is going to the moon, and building and outfitting Moonshot Mission Control is critical to success," said William “Red” Whittaker, University Founders Research Professor in the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute. "The culmination of many years and countless hours of work by hundreds of individuals has brought us to a pivotal moment in the history of the university and space exploration. As CMU launches two rovers over the next two years, we will lead the way."

The Peregrine Lander, manufactured by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology, will deliver the 4-pound Iris robot to the Moon. To be launched into space, this robot designed by CMU students, successfully passed a critical design review by NASA.

The Moonshot Mission Control Center will be located in the Gates Center for Computer Science in the School of Computer Science, on the university's main campus in the Oakland Civic Center section of Pittsburgh. Dedicated work-stations for operators and the Flight Director will allow them to control the rovers on the Moon, as well as monitor telemetry, localization data, and Fault List Evaluator for Ultimate Response (FLEUR) readouts.

In addition to the Iris and MoonRanger missions, the Moonshot Mission Control Center will be built to allow adjustments for robotic space missions beyond 2023. This could include ongoing CubeSat missions, testing battery-less nanosatellites, building robots to service satellites in orbit, developing capabilities for satellite swarms, and more.

"Once our rovers land on the moon, every second counts," said Lydia Schweitzer, a Research Associate in the Robotics Institute and head of CMU mission operations. "Communication windows during missions are extremely limited. We need to make decisions quickly. Moonshot Mission Control will be an ideal place for the crew to monitor and direct our rovers."

A crowd-funding campaign announced on March 29, as well as sponsorships and gifts, will be used to raise the $80,000 needed for the Moonshot Mission Control Center. The funds will be used to rehabilitate an existing classroom, as well as purchase computer servers, computers, and communications equipment capable of maintaining contact on the Moon.

A past crowd-funding campaign successfully raised more than $66,000 from 250 people for the Iris mission.

A commercial spin-off from CMU, Astrobotic will open a Moonshot Museum on Pittsburgh's Lower North Side in October. This new museum will be located adjacent to Astrobotic's manufacturing facility. In addition to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education for young people, this museum will allow the general public to watch Moon rovers being constructed.

Carnegie Mellon University originated in 1900 as the Carnegie Technical Schools. It was established to provide for a technical education by famous industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

 Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Crowd-Funding Campaign for CMU Moonshot Mission Control:

Link >>>

Iris Lunar Rover: Link >>> 

MoonRanger Lunar Rover: Link >>>

Peregrine Lunar Lander: Link >>>

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss

                 Monday, 2022 April 18.

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Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
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Electronic Mail: < >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: Link >>>
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: Link >>>
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh: Link >>>  Buhl Observatory: Link >>>
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago: Link >>>
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear: Link >>>
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: Link >>>

* Other Walsh Authored Blog & Web-Sites: Link >>>

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