When he was a little kid, growing up amid the excitement of the space race and the moon landing, Mayor Bill Peduto wanted to be the first "astronaut baseball player."
Turns out, Hizzoner lacked both the math and hitting skills to fulfill that dream and had to settle for a career in politics.
"Anybody my age has a certain affinity for space," Mr. Peduto, 50, said to the employees of Astrobotic Technology Inc. during a visit Friday to the company's Strip District offices. Astrobotics, which aspires to be "FedEx to the moon," was created out of a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 to compete for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, aimed at landing a privately funded robot on the moon by 2017. The company is also working to pioneer "affordable planetary access that promises to spark a new era of exploration, science, tourism, resource utilization and mining."
Mr. Peduto viewed the prototype lunar lander, named Griffin, that Astrobotics is designing to carry a rover designed by Carnegie Mellon. The first private, non-governmental entity to land a robotic rover on the moon, drive it 500 meters and send high-definition pictures back wins $20 million.
"Pittsburgh is going to the moon," said William "Red" Whittaker, the company's chairman and chief science officer, who developed CMU's National Robotics Engineering Center from seed funding. "The trick to anything is seeing the future and making it happen."
The mayor came away impressed.
"What is happening here is leading the world. It's not something that is simply another industry. It is an industry that is being pioneered in Pittsburgh. It's using Pittsburgh products and Pittsburgh talent and bringing people to the city," he said. "Pittsburgh is in competition with Silicon Valley and with Boston in robotics, autonomous vehicles, lunar expeditions. ... We are on a world map."