MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Sept. 9, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Moon Express, a Google Lunar X PRIZE contender, announced today that it has established the "Moon Express Robotics Lab for Innovation" (MERLIN) and has hired a team of the nations' brightest engineering students who became international superstars through the FIRST Robotics Competition. MERLIN will develop robotic technology supporting the company's lunar exploration missions under the leadership of Marco Chacin, a graduate of the International Space University who holds a PhD in Aerospace Engineering and developed robotic solutions for the JAXA/ISAS "Hayabusa" asteroid sample return missions.
The engineering team hired by Moon Express was mentored at the NASA Ames Robotics Academy, where they also developed innovative lunar micro-rover concepts. "MERLIN is formed around the best and most accomplished young robotics engineers," said company co-founder and CEO Bob Richards. "FIRST Robotics has inspired their life passion; now they are working to be FIRST on the Moon."
The MERLIN launch team includes Marco Chacin (Lead), Matt Carberry, Guy Chriqui, Kevin Huang, Cory McBride, Brandon Plaster, EJ Sabathia Jr., Mike Stewart and Krystine Thoroughman.
MERLIN's initial focus will be on the development, demonstration and flight design of a micro-rover capable of exploration of the lunar surface that is compatible with the lunar lander system being developed by Moon Express engineers in collaboration with NASA. The micro-rovers will complement micro-hopper systems also being developed by the company, providing a flexible and agile lunar mobility system solution.
NASA is the largest sponsor of the FIRST Robotics Competition. Although more than 11,000 students in 600 teams from 29 countries competed in this year's robotics challenge, Team 254, a NASA Ames-mentored team for the past 14 years, won the 2011 championship.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a long-standing challenge founded by leading American scientist and inventor Dean Kamen, is designed to inspire curiosity and create interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics among high school students.
For more information, please visit: www.moonexpress.com
SOURCE Moon Express