Audi’s Electric Lunar Rover Will Head to the Moon Next Year

All that’s left is final testing. Well, that, and sending it into space.

Audi

Audi has long made advertising hay out of the capabilities of its quattro all-wheel-drive system. The carmaker has fired its models up ski slopes, touted its competitive prowess, and depicted its vehicles as snow-conquering monsters. If all goes according to plan, however, an all-wheel-drive Audi will soon be turning its wheels where no luxury automotive brand has gone before: the moon.

Audi first announced back in 2015 that it would be joining a group of German brainiacs known as Part Time Scientists to attempt to claim the Lunar XPrize, a Google-funded competition promising a $20 million purse to any independent group that could land a robot on the moon, drive at least half a kilometer, and send images and video back to Earth. The company’s “Audi lunar quattro” rover was designed from scratch to help accomplish that task. Now, the carmaker has announced that it has finally finished development of the vehicle in advance of its expected 2017 launch date.

As the name would lead you to believe, the vehicle will grip the silty surface with four wheels, all powered by electric motors connected to batteries and solar panels. In spite of all that necessary equipment and a brace of high-resolution cameras (including 3-D and 360-degree ones), Audi managed to keep the weight of the self-driving moon car down to a mere 66 pounds.

For the 240,000-mile trip to Earth’s favorite satellite, the Audi lunar quattro—well, two of them, technically—will be nestled inside Part Time Scientists’ ALINA landing module, a four-legged probe capable of delivering up to 220 pounds to the moon’s surface. Once they’re blasted across the abyss by one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets, the vehicles will be let loose in the Valley of Taurus-Littrow, where Apollo 17 made moonfall in 1972. If Audi is lucky, they might even land close enough to the former site to snap a picture of the Boeing/GM-made lunar rovers used by the astronauts more than 40 years ago.