The first autonomous US rover is about to head for the moon. Developed by students, faculty and alumni at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania over three years, the Iris rover is being carried to the moon as part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. Its 60-hour-long mission will snap images of the moon's surface for geographic study and test new localization techniques as it transmits data about its position back to Earth. The team also plans to send along the MoonArk, a tiny time capsule filled with poems, music, pictures and small objects. Launch is currently scheduled for May 4 from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. "Hundreds of students have poured thousands of hours into Iris," said Raewyn Duvall, a research associate and commander of the mission. "We've worked for years toward this mission, and to have a launch date on the calendar is an exciting step."

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