Want your name on the Moon? UT-Austin engineers design message-writing rover

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A group of University of Texas at Austin engineering students want to put you on the Moon.

Well, maybe put your name on the Moon at least, or perhaps a haiku.

A group of 10 students designed a rover that can be programmed to write short messages on the Moon’s surface, and then snap a photo of its work to send back to Earth. It was a capstone project for Cockrell School of Engineering students, and it’s called LEGACI, short for Lunar Engraver with Geologic Autonomous Carving Instrument.

“When I was walking back from that class to my apartment in West Campus, I tend to look at the ground when I’m walking, and I saw this piece of cement on the sidewalk where, you know it’s like semi-set and people will start carving stuff in it – like they’re name or the year they’re gonna graduate and stuff like that – I was like, that kinda looks similar to the surface of the moon. It’s very similar. I was like, people love to do this. We can make something that would be able to do this on the moon,” UT graduate Brianna Caughron said.

This message by the LEGACI rover took 445 seconds to complete, and with the current prie tag at $9.99/second, would cost $449.55. (Photo from University of Texas Engineering)

NASA honored the student team with two awards in a design competition, one in the project’s theme category and the other for excellence in commercial innovation.

How does the rover make money? It would charge people not by how long the messages are letter-wise, but for how long the rover takes to write the messages. It charges $9.99 per second, so for example, the message in the top photo took 445 seconds for the rover to complete, so the price tag for that is $449.55.

The team expected the average moon message to cost between $500 and $600.

“At first glance, this concept seemed a little out of left field,” team member Nader Syed said. “But thanks to months of work by people I was lucky enough to be on a team with, it became tangible. Real. And I think that’s engineering in a nutshell — making an idea real, something out of nothing. I’m really proud of this project and this team, and I know I’ll remember this for a long time.”

The 10 students were seniors in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics when they developed the project and graduated in May 2020: Samuel Adams, Ali Babool, David Baier, Brianna Caughron, Jack Davidson, Justin Ganiban, Kevin Hicks, Akshat Ramadurai, Rebecca Wang and Syed.

The University of Texas at Austin student engineering team that designed LEGACI. (UT engineering photo)

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