Things are buzzing late Monday afternoon at Carnegie Mellon's Planetary Robotics Lab Highbay. Outside, in front of the garage door-like entrance, a trio of men fills up a kiddie pool with a garden hose. Just to their left, an Enterprise rent-a-truck backs up and a handful of students raise two metal ramps up to its rear in order to drive a flashy rover up inside. I ask our guide, Jason Calaiaro, what the vehicle's final destination is. "NASA," he answers, simply. "We have a great relationship with NASA, and they help us test things."
Calaiaro is the CIO of Astrobotic Technology, an offshoot of the school that was founded a few years back, thanks to Google's Lunar X Prize announcement. And while none of the handful of vehicles the former student showcases were made specifically with the government space agency in mind, given the company's history of contractual work, we could well see them receive the NASA stamp of approval in the future. Asked to take us through the project, Calaiaro tells us, quite confidently, that the trio of vehicles behind us are set to "land on the moon in 2015," an ambitious goal set to occur exactly three weeks from last Friday.