Welcome to XRI
The eXoplanetary Research Institute (XRI) was founded in 1998 with a mission to explore terrestrial bodies and seek out life beyond the confines of our own solar system. Thanks to the generous anonymous contributions from a private benefactor, XRI has since become a world leader in communications and propulsion technologies and now stands at the threshold of one of the greatest scientific expeditions of all time.
When we launched our flagship probe Interstellar I more than a decade ago, we were bound for Epsilon Eridani b, which was the closest known extrasolar planet at the time. Today, based on data we've gathered with our approaching probe, we know that the Epsilon Eridani solar system contains at least 6 planets. One of these planets lies in the "Goldilocks zone"—the region in which the planet's temperature will likely be just above the freezing point of water, making it a good candidate for supporting Earth-like life.
The idea to crowdsource the exploration of our destination planet was inspired, in part, by similar projects like NASA's MoonZoo or SETIQuest Explorer. With the recent cuts in the US space program, we saw increased opportunities for private foundations like XRI to fill the void. For the Extrasolar project, we're allowing an unprecedented level of access to the most ambitious space exploration project of our time.
The Extrasolar Project
When NASA began its unmanned mission to Mars in 2003, they wisely chose to send two rovers—Spirit and Opportunity—so that if one broke down, the mission could still be successful. Here at the eXoplanetary Research Institute (XRI) we call that "redundancy lite." For the Extrasolar project, we've packed so many rovers aboard Interstellar I, that there's no way we could control them all without bringing in assistance from volunteers like you.
Since we didn't know what conditions to expect in advance, our rovers have an enormous variety of capabilities. To keep costs low, we used a lot of consumer-grade electronics, some of which has been modified to operate under high atmospheric pressure, high moisture and a wide range of temperatures.
Each rover is about the size of a large toaster when it's folded up aboard the Interstellar I probe. The rovers unfold to reveal six independently articulated legs with wheels, solar panels and a head with multiple sensors, including a camera that can extend to one meter (3.3 feet) above the ground.
As project liaison Robert Turing explained, "The idea was to keep rovers as simple and lightweight as possible. The rovers will communicate over short distances with lander modules which will, in turn, relay messages back to a communications base station that will remain in orbit. From there, the messages will be relayed back to Earth using a proprietary communications technology."