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Montana State University moon robot close to winning NASA competition

Update: I just got a call from Brock LaMeres telling me that the competition is over and that MSU is at the top of the scoreboard.

Officially, NASA won’t announce the winners until the awards ceremony tonight, but the scoreboard tells the tale. MSU brought the only robot to exceed NASA’s 10-kilogram minimum.

The Chronicle will probably carry a version of this story tomorrow, padded with some text that MSU News has promised for later this afternoon.

In the meantime, congratulations to MSU!

Montana MULE moon digger robotA robot moon digger designed by Montana State University engineering students will finish either first or second at a competition at Kennedy Space Center today. The results of the competition should be complete within an hour.

The Chronicle and MSU News reported on the robot yesterday. If the MSU team wins, the students will earn $5,000 and the chance to watch a NASA rocket launch.

The Lunabotics Mining Competition (streaming live here), held at the Astronaut Hall of Fame in Florida, aimed to see which student-designed remote-controlled robot could pick up the most simulated moon dust.

The MSU robot, dubbed Montana MULE by its creators, picked up about 22 kilograms of dust — roughly 45 pounds, said the team’s faculty adviser, MSU professor Brock LaMeres.

When I spoke to LaMeres this afternoon, MSU was sitting in first place with only one team left to compete.

“[The team’s] freaking out. It’s incredible,” he said. “We went third, so we’d been sitting here for I don’t know how long, six hours, waiting while other teams went.”

I’ll post an update when I know more. In the meantime, watch this video of the digger in action.