Known as the Terrestrial Artificial Lunar and Reduced Gravity Simulator, or Talaris, the three-foot-wide vehicle is a smaller version of a hopper that would be used in space. It is designed to go about 20 meters per hop; space-based hoppers might cover tens of kilometers--or possibly more--in a single bound. The team that built Talaris wants to use it on Earth to test guidance, navigation, and control software developed by Draper that would allow the space-based hopper to navigate autonomously.
The prototype was developed as part of MIT's effort to win the Google Lunar X Prize, a $30 million competition to get a privately funded spacecraft to reach the moon, travel 500 meters across its surface, and transmit video, images, and other data back to Earth. Both MIT and Draper are members of Next Giant Leap, one of about 20 teams registered in the competition.
I just saw this article in the September 2011 issue of Air & Space Smithsonian and recalled this post on DIY Drones. Fortunately, the article is posted in its entirety HERE.
i worked on some of the controls for this thing and making a controller that would guarantee that it would fly safely and not kill anyone was a trick bit of work.
The flying bedstead balanced on the thrust from the turbofan. Kind of like trying to balance a pencil vertically on the tip of your finger. The thrusters were only capable of countering a few degrees of roll.
Four were built, three were crashed. The company I worked for made the thrusters, and more importantly, the ejection seat. I have seen the video of the three crashes. Neil Armstrong ejected less than a second before impact. This is an early version. The later versions had a styrofoam cockpit to simulate the narrow field of view on the lunar lander.
The ducted fans are for the experimental vehicle on earth. They will run in order to simulate the gravity conditions on the moon by acting against the force of Earth's gravity a certain percentage.
The compressed gas thrusters are designed for use in space and on the moon.
it's not a spacecraft, just a moon jumper