This website documents the birth of Team Italia (the only Italian team competing for the Google Lunar X Prize), from the request for admission by Professor Alberto Rovetta (Department of Mechanics of the Politecnico di Milano) of 30.09.2007 until official presentation of the project of 21.02.2008 at the Google headquarters. For further developments, please refer to the official website xprize.org Last Update: 23.02.2008
22.02.2008, our Sphere concept on the NYT
The Sphere robot concept (project by Alberto Rovetta, design by Raffaele Iannello) is today both on the paper and the online edition of the renowned New York Times newspaper.
Below two extracts. The paper version is today in newsstands, conversely the online version will be also in future available at www.nytimes.com/2008/02/22/business/22space.html
21.02.2008, X Prize Event
Below an extract (duration: 1' 46") in which Professor Alberto Rovetta presents the Team Italia project officially during the recent Google X Prize Event in Mountain View, California.
The video below from YouTube also contains the entire presentation with all ten teams (duration: 58' 34"). press the PLAY button to start the video at 11' 06" when Rovetta speaks
ARIAL Laboratory of Robotics since 1977
Robotics, in Italy, has a great presence as third country in world for diffusion and application. ARIAL Laboratory of Robotics of the Department of Mechanics in Politecnico di Milano has a long tradition since 1977 on new robotic application, in research and in progressive results.
In 1977 the first mechanical robotic hand has been developed, and took also the attention of Isaac Asimov as one of the best world example. In 1983 a voice + vision controlled robot, named Gilberto, has been developed and is reported in Encyclopedia of Robotics, as one of the first world examples. In 1973 the first world telerobotic surgery application between JPL in Pasadena and Politecnico in Milan, Italy occurred offering the first example of use of different input signals in telecontrol of robots on surgery; the first human biopsy was in 28 August on a man, during the IX World Congress of Mechanics IFToMM. In 1984 the first world bionic artificial leg was presented in Davos at the World Biomechanics and Orthopedics Congress. On 2002 the space robotics robot FRIEND, accomplished to get with two flexible arms an astronaut or a satellite in space, was prepared for ISS as prototype for Italian Space Agency.
Professor Alberto Rovetta and the Google Lunar X Prize
The decision to enter was immediate when Alberto Rovetta knew the call of Google, in effect his request
is n. 4 in the list. We appreciate many aspects of Google XPrize:
- the young age of the teams and the high sense of responsibility of all the people
working in Google;
- the care of the welfare of all the mankind and the interest to go over old frontiers
and recognize the beauty of the study and research in Google;
- the capability to reduce the risk of enterprise because the great friendship and
positive cooperation (no bad and negative competivity) in Google teams;
- the feeling for the new era of global communication, when new characteristics and
commitments are generate in all the world, and also Moon and space must
- the capability to recognize inside and outside the working groups, the real
performance and high qualities;
- the courage in front of the reality of life, of science, of the future hopes.
We decide to enter because already we won many challenges in the world science in
robots, as robotics hands, voice controlled robot, telerobotics at the first days,
biorobotics, cooperating robots for space explorations, and over.
We are also fascinated from the high value of the Google communication, all over
the world, with messages which are clear, short and deep. From the Moon the
messages will be clear and more effective if robots can present and transmit them.
We can enter the era of post – virtual, with the global communication as a richness
The approach of Google Xprize is outside traditional research strategies, because
the simple goal ( 500 meters + images) to be reached, permits next steps in Moon –
man ratio, with unforeseen discoveries and new developments, as occurred in
Cristoforo Colombo expedition and in all courageous human actions.
The advantage over our competitors
The main advantages of our team are:
- young age of all the working people in our team;
- great wish of cooperation with other teams and requirement to exchange ideas,
- international experience since many years all over the world of our Institutions
for design, robotics, space exploration;
- robotic skill in front of new solutions and innovations;
- willing to recognize the support of many possible partners;
- quiet support in front of new challenges and high enthusiasms in front of
unexplored important developments.
The advantage that we can also use, is connected with the adjustment of our work
always to the most creative design. Our projects always adapt to new
requirements. We always go over past ideas and old results, because nature, and
technical requirements change with environmental conditions.
For Moon exploration, after the first descent of man on the Moon soil, now it is
time of exploitation, and the machines “robots” must be friends for the humans.
Our project for International space Station was named FRIEND and it works as a
support to human safety.
A second strong advantage is that we participate, as Engineering Faculty, to new
technologies and we have the possibility to get the most advanced nanosensors and
nanomachines, which also must be used for special robots for Moon, with reduced
sizes and low weights, which is a basic requirements for launch.
Concepts of design for Moon exploitation by using new technologies like lasers and
rays reflection can make a great development for communication of events and
images (see attached proposal of Robotics).
Our technical plans for winning the prize
The proposal is connected with a traditional launch with a rocket supported
by a reliable launcher, according to the offers of the launchers, which must offer the
Landing will be made in cooperation with the system adopted by Spirit and
Opportunity, which was designed by an Engineer, whose family came from Italy,
Abruzzi and whom I met by phone to ask suggestions and give compliments on
2004. He will give us a great support, if he can, and I hope to meet him very soon.
The enclosed figure also shows that the colony of robots can be spread out during
the landing in vicinity to Moon , and the robots will fall in a random order.
The lander will be designed in accordance to launcher, rocket and landing system.
We can design it with the cooperation of Italian Industries, which we know very
well, and also with external support.
The real goal is the communication among robots on Moon and between Moon and
Earth. We have already prepared a strong part of Google X Prize project, which we
will present to everyone on 2009, on communication, developed in Politecnico di
Milano, called “multi-hop ad hoc connection”. I have already met many centers of
research in Europe and I have found the best technologies, incredibly strong,
powerful, small and reliable, to have the best communication on Moon between
robots and between Moon and Earth, with transponder satellite, which is necessary.
Communication and downloading of information
Communication system by means of gigatel chips on the robots, working in multihop
with transponder, and making a network on moon, for maintenance and
support to satellites between Earth and Moon.
A completely new system on the rear face of Moon to send messages and signals
towards deep space with special dipoles and emitters, to explore the effect of low
frequency signals, not disturbed by cosmic rays, and particularly from sun rays,
because the motion occurs when the energy comes from the light of Sun and the
exploration occurs on the night, without disturbances.
Two main directions
The design of vehicle for the motion on Moon will follow two main directions:
- new design of colony of robots, with lights, intelligent and autonomous, with internal proprioception and nanosensors;
- semi traditional rover, as in past times.
1. Colony of robots
The team is composed by a colony of robots, from 5-10 to 100 (one hundred)
according to different shape project. The design will perform the robotic system
architecture and function selection, able to define all the system from the conceptual
idea to the executive robot to be launched, and the team will collect experts in fields
of vision systems, of locomotion, of energy use, of communication. The architecture
of the system is a colony of many robots, light, mobile, with many legs and wheels,
able to be compacted in the lander and to be distributed quickly on the Moon
surface, with cameras and sensors support. They will perform 4 actions:
preparation of soil for human exploitation; connection between robots on the Moon;special actions for science on the surface; presentation with laser of images visible in
the field Moon – Earth.
The colony of robots is very light and about 30 – 100 robots can be launched to
Moon together. Every robot contains locomotion motors, microcameras,
nanosensors, microactuators of high efficiency, solar cells and batteries, and special
material body. A prototype is already running in Politecnico di Milano.
The unique and original design is that Italian Design & Technology Team contains a
colony of many robots, very light, half – sphere made, one inside the other like
plastic plates in automatic machines, able to be separated automatically with a
special control when they are on the Moon, with the best technology of Earth. A
prototype is under development in the Laboratory of Robotics, Politecnico di
2. Rover like
The figures below show the actual robot with legs, wheels and metamorphic structure,
which has already been presented and described in international meetings and
books. It is a rover with as special shape, able to have a greater adaptability and
flexibility and which can move - also quickly - on different unexpected terrains and
which can perform handling and locomotion tasks, with cameras and data
transmission, as required by Google X Prize.
Our present robot
The new shape is with legs + wheels,
in a metamorphic structure. The
shape adapts itself to the Moon
terrain and environmental
conditions. The autonomy is great and the velocity is
high. Cameras are hidden on the head and go out when required.
The prototype of our robot
Developed by Alberto Rovetta and his team, this is the prototype of our present working robot, in motion with synchronization in the
terrain of ARIAL Laboratory inside the Politecnico di Milano.
Two new design hypotheses
We are developing two new ideas for our lunar rover, both designed by Raffaele Iannello. The first proposal is a robot in the form of a disc (so that it can be easily stowed in a great number of items on a rocket).
The second proposal is a robot in the form of a compact sphere that can be transformed into a slender, nimble and tall structure (in order to exceed any asperity on the moon surface).
First design hypothesis: the Disc robot
Conceived by Raffaele Iannello, this design idea is for a new lunar robot in the form of a disc, so that it can be easily stowed in a great number of items on a rocket (for example, as many coins in an old photographic film box).
The scheme below shows the robot can be easily stored by stacking them together (when it is folded up). In this scheme there are ten columns of robots, made from items 1 to 10 combined together.
Furthermore perspective views (one from top, one from bottom) of the closed robot and perspective views (one from top, one from bottom) of the robot with his four legs already deployed and therefore ready to interact with the lunar surface.
Disc robot, scheme of working
Below the scheme of the robot opening (here in six schematic steps) to change from a 2D configuration to a 3D configuration.
Perspective view of the sequence of the legs, that initially are a unique piece with the body of the robot, unroll and open completely.
Furthermore top, bottom and side views of the closed robot.
Possible landing on Moon of
the colony of robots, explode
from the rocket during the
land phase. The distribution
of the robots is random and
strongly facilitates the regular
distribution on the soil of
Moon and the motion in order
to get the required
After landing, the robots
communicate each other, and
use camera to recognize the
environment. The software
program of motion for
distributing the robots, also
avoiding obstacles and critical
position, is a main part of the
Second design hypothesis: the Sphere robot
Conceived by Raffaele Iannello, this design idea is for a new lunar robot in the form of an apparently very compact sphere that can be transformed into a slender, nimble and tall structure (in order to exceed any asperity on the moon surface).
The scheme below shows the sequence of the robot opening his legs and standing up, changing his body from a compact sphere to a slender and tall structure that can exceed any type of asperity on the moon surface. The side view best emphasizes the shape changing for adapting to many tasks.
Furthermore perspective views (one from top, one from bottom) of the closed robot.
Sphere robot, scheme of working
Below the scheme of the sequence (here in six schematic steps) of the robot opening his legs and standing up, changing his body from a compact sphere to
a slender and tall structure that can exceed any type of asperity on the moon surface.
Furthermore top, bottom and side views of the closed robot.
Advertising on/from the moon surface
The simulation of rays projection of laser and lights rays for communication and
images presentation on/from moon. Images and communication is the next world we are living in, erasing old concepts
and living towards a future where light and clear images and strong thoughts are
the mankind gift. The Moon is a wonderful balcony for mankind to our Earth.
Our team at Google Lunar X Prize event
X PRIZE Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring about breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. The Foundation awards large incentive prizes to individuals and teams to achieve targeted solutions to global challenges in energy/environment, life sciences, education, global entrepreneurship and the exploration of deep space and ocean depths.