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William (Red) L. Whittaker
University Professor, RI
Office: NSH 2109
Fax: 412-268-1338
  Mailing address:
Carnegie Mellon University
Robotics Institute
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Administrative Assistant: Ashley M. McClinton
Affiliated Center(s):
 Space Robotics Initiative (SRI)
 Field Robotics Center (FRC)
Personal Homepage

News and Media
Flight Test of Astrobotic Landing System Is Successful
April 14, 2014. Astrobotic Technology successfully tested the landing guidance system it will use to place a robot on the moon during a February test in the Mojave Desert aboard the Masten Aerospace Xombie, a vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing suborbital rocket.
Astrobotic Qualifies for Milestone Funding From Google Lunar XPRIZE
February 19, 2014. Astrobotic Technology, which is attempting to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, has qualified for Milestone Prizes offered by the XPRIZE organization, which could net the team up to $1.75 million for reaching its objectives in three categories – Landing, Mobility, and Imaging. CMU will lead the effort in the Mobility category, which will demonstrate that the rover can survive the vacuum and extreme cold of the Moon, as well as show that it can complete and document a 500-meter traverse on the lunar surface.
The Robots That Saved Pittsburgh
February 04, 2014. "The Robots That Saved Pittsburgh," an article in the latest issue of Politico magazine, highlights the role of the Robotics Institute in the rebirth of Pittsburgh following the collapse of the steel industry.
CMU Receives $7 Million for National Robotics Initiative Projects
October 24, 2013. Robotic rotorcraft for inspecting bridges and other infrastructure, tools for minimally invasive surgery that guide surgeons by creating 3D maps of internal organs and assistive robots for blind travelers are among seven new Carnegie Mellon University research projects sponsored through the National Robotics Initiative.
The Verge Visits "Robot City"
October 24, 2013. The website The Verge recently visited Pittsburgh to find out why it has become the Robot City. The site has now posted an article and a video Robot City: How the Machines Are Driving Pittsburgh's Future, which includes interviews with Sidd Srinivasa, Red Whittaker, Howie Choset and other members of the Robotics Institute.
Whittaker Talks Driverless Cars
April 04, 2013. William “Red” Whittaker, professor of robotics, talked with the Big Picture Science radio show about driverless cars. Listen to his interview about the technology and where it is taking us. Whittaker is a pioneer of autonomous navigation and led Carnegie Mellon's victorious Tartan Racing Team in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge robot race.
Whittaker Leads NASA Study to Keep Planetary Rovers Rolling
February 14, 2013. William “Red” Whittaker, director of Carnegie Mellon’s Field Robotics Center and CEO of Astrobotic Technology Inc., will lead a NASA-funded study to figure out how robots such as the Mars rover Curiosity can avoid getting stuck in sinking sand or similarly hazardous terrain.
Astrobotic Technology Assembles Prototype of Lunar Water-Prospecting Robot
October 08, 2012. Astrobotic Technology Inc. has completed assembly of a full-size prototype of Polaris, a solar-powered robot that will search for potentially rich deposits of water ice at the moon’s poles. The first of its kind, Polaris can accommodate a drill to bore one meter into the lunar surface and can operate in a lunar regions characterized by dark, long shadows and a sun that hugs the horizon. Astrobotic, a Robotics Institute spinoff that develops robotics technology for planetary missions, is developing Polaris for an expedition to the moon’s northern pole.
Red Whittaker To Receive IEEE Simon Ramo Medal
June 22, 2012. William “Red” Whittaker, who has repeatedly developed robots to work in such inhospitable places as contaminated nuclear plants, abandoned mines, active volcanoes, Antarctic glaciers and the moon, has been awarded the 2012 Simon Ramo Medal by IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional organization.
Astrobotic Announces New Robot Design, New Lunar Mission
April 04, 2012. Robotics Institute spin-off Astrobotic Technology has unveiled a new design and name – Polaris – for its lunar rover, which will prospect for potentially rich deposits of water ice, methane and other resources at the moon's north pole.
Scarab demonstrates new fuel cell
March 02, 2012. NASA's Glenn Research Center used the Scarab robot developed by the Robotics Institute to demonstrate a new fuel cell for the first time outside of a laboratory setting. The new type of fuel cell will extend the range of surface operations for rovers that will explore new worlds as part of future NASA missions.
Astrobotic Gains New Task in NASA Contract
February 28, 2012. NASA has awarded Astrobotic Technology Inc. an additional task in its $10 million Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) contract under which NASA buys information about the company's commercial robotic expeditions to the Moon. The $100,000 task order brings total funding under the ILDD contract thus far to $610,000.
Astrobotic's Red Rover is Best of What's New
November 16, 2011. Astrobotic Technology's Red Rover made Popular Science's annual list of the Best of What's New, announced in the magazine's December issue. The magazine noted that the team, headed by the Robotics Institute's William "Red" Whittaker, took the lead this year over 26 competitors in the race to win the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize.
CMU, Astrobotic Assemble Lunar Lander
June 15, 2011. Astrobotic Technology Inc. and Carnegie Mellon University researchers have completed structural assembly of the lunar landing craft that will deliver the Red Rover robot to the moon in 2014. The half-ton aluminum structure will now undergo shake testing to confirm its soundness and its compatibility with the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
Whittaker To Receive AAAI Feigenbaum Prize
June 06, 2011. William “Red” Whittaker’s contributions to the field of artificial intelligence through innovation and achievement in autonomous vehicle research, as signified by his team’s victory in the 2007 Urban Challenge robot race, have won him a share of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence’s (AAAI) inaugural Feigenbaum Prize.
Astrobotic Signs Contract for SpaceX to Launch Robot to Moon
February 07, 2011. Astrobotic Technology Inc., the Carnegie Mellon University spin-off headed by William “Red” Whittaker, has signed a contract with SpaceX to launch Astrobotic’s exploration robot to the Moon atop one of the company’s Falcon 9 boosters. The mission could launch as soon as December 2013.
NASA Delivers $500,000 to Astrobotic Technology for Moon Mission
December 21, 2010. Carnegie Mellon University spin-out Astrobotic Technology has received the first $500,000 task order from the $10 million contract that NASA awarded the company in October. The order will help the company design, build and test the primary structure for its lunar lander.
Google Robot Car Project Involves Large CMU Contingent
October 20, 2010. Google Inc.'s autonomous vehicle project has achieved a milestone for self-driving vehicles, with eight cars logging more than 140,000 miles on public roads with minimal human input. Current and former Carnegie Mellon students, faculty and staff have made large contributions as part of the Google team.
Astrobotic Technology wins NASA data contract
October 18, 2010. Carnegie Mellon University spin-off Astrobotic Technology was awarded a $10 million contract through NASA’s Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) program for data to be gathered before and during the company’s April 2013 robotic expedition to the Moon. Read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's coverage of the Astrobotic team.
Carnegie Robotics Partners With NREC To Make Components, Systems
August 30, 2010. Carnegie Mellon University announces the launch of a new firm, Carnegie Robotics LLC, which will develop, manufacture and service robotic components and systems in partnership with the university’s highly successful National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC).
Caterpillar Will Sponsor Tranquility Trek
August 23, 2010. Astrobotic Technology, a Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) spin-off company, has announced that Caterpillar Inc. will be a sponsor of its first robotic expedition to the lunar surface. The initial Astrobotic mission, Tranquility Trek, will revisit the Apollo 11 site in April 2013 with a five-foot tall, 160-lb. robot broadcasting 3D high-definition video. The mission will carry payloads to the Moon and convey the experience to the world via Internet video access.
Scarab Featured at NASA Day
June 24, 2010. The Robotics Institute's Dom Jonak and David Kohanbash took Scarab to Washington, D.C., June 23 to participate in NASA Day on the Hill. The NASA-sponsored robot is designed to test robot designs and components that might be used to prospect for ice and other resources on the moon.
Grand Challenges of Science: Robotics
April 06, 2010. In January, DISCOVER and the National Science Foundation continued their Grand Challenges event series with a panel discussion at Carnegie Mellon University exploring the dynamic world of robotics. Videos are now available online.
Study Shows Robots Could Prepare Lunar Landing Pad
February 25, 2009. Small robots the size of riding mowers could prepare a safe landing site for NASA’s Moon outpost, according to a NASA-sponsored study prepared by Astrobotic Technology Inc. with technical assistance from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute.
RI Seminar: Red Whittaker
Robots at Work
October 24, 2008 - Length: 80:00