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UNH senior lends a hand in developing moon rover for Google Lunar XPRIZE

By Tyler Kennedy

Staff Writer

While he was growing up, Tamir Blum was naturally curious, and his interests lay across multiple fields of study. Upon entering his freshman year at UNH, his future ambitions were still unknown to him. At that point in time, he had intentions of studying political science.

For better or for worse, that was not the path he chose.

Blum, who is now a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, decided to take a different path with his studies thus leading him to spend most of his recent summer months at Tohoku University in Japan on a fellowship that is truly out of this world.

While there, he served as a member of the international committee that was Team Hakuto, which is currently working to develop a moon rover for Google Lunar XPRIZE. While Blum’s involvement only lasted a few months, the project is still ongoing.

According to the official website for the competition, the mission of Google Lunar XPRIZE is to “incentivize space entrepreneurs to create a new era of affordable access to the moon and beyond.”

A $20 million grand prize will be awarded to the first team that successfully “lands a privately funded rover on the moon, travels 500 meters, and transmits high definition video and images.” 

The project, which was announced in 2007, currently has 16 international teams vying for the top prize.

Initially, Blum had the ambition to study abroad but Japan was just one of many countries in which he was interested. 

“I’ve been interested in Japan for a long time. Like I watched anime growing up. … There’s also a large Japanese influence on the U.S., such as Sony, Nintendo. But looking into the robotic and space exploration aspects to it all, the Japanese are major players,” Blum said.

It wasn’t until he stumbled upon an article that he became interested in the research being done at Tohoku University. He began a correspondence with Professor Kazuya Yoshida of Tohoku University in late 2014, allowing for ample time in preparation for the internship.

Blum remarked that while mechanical engineering is certainly a broad field of study with a myriad of implications within modern science, he currently has his eye on one specific subfield: control systems, into which the field of robotics also falls under.

“I’m interested in space and robotics, and both of those fields are extremely international, especially with space exploration because of the high costs. … It’s one of those places where you see countries coming together the most,” Blum said.

It was relatively recently that Blum had formed an interest in robotics.

“Coming to the University of New Hampshire and getting involved with some of the organizations here really allowed me to learn more about this field,” said Blum. “And once I learned about it, I was hooked.”

Blum is currently considering moving onto graduate school upon the completion of his undergraduate degree. He knows for certain that he will continue his efforts in the fields of control systems, robotics, and space.

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