Startup of the Month- Astrobotic

Q: What do you see as the mission of Astrobotic?

A: Our mission is to make the moon accessible to the world – space agencies, companies, universities, non-profits, and individual consumers. A major way we do this is by selling payloads for our robots to carry to the moon. These payloads can carry research equipment, advertisements, or even consumer goods.

Q: Where did the inspiration for the company come from?

A: Red Whittaker, professor from Carnegie Mellon, had the vision for the company. For the first six years the company tried a few different avenues, as most startups do. It took a few years to convince people that the market was ready for payloads to the moon.

Q: Have you always had a passion for space and space exploration?

A: I’ve always had the passion for space exploration, even if though sometimes I didn’t know it. My parents gave me a telescope as a child and in 5th grade I remember the Mars landing. These started my interest, but I didn’t consider it as a career until Astrobotic. I started as an engineer at the company for 6 years and then moved into the business side.

Q: What made it possible to start Astrobotic? Who were some of the most important partners?

A: We have had many partners in Pittsburgh to help us get started. Carnegie Mellon University is one of the biggest partners. We have actually just announced that CMU has purchased a payload and will be the first university to go to the moon.

Q: Congratulations on the $79.5 million NASA grant! How did you position yourself to win this grant?

A: We are in a city with the best robotics engineers in the world. We have greatly benefitted from this talent pool and research facilities. We were up against 9 other companies and were awarded the contract along with two others. We consider ourselves at the forefront of this field.

Q: Why Pittsburgh?

A: This is where the talent is. Pittsburgh has that “special sauce” of people and institutions that helps it lead the world in this field.

Q: What are the future plans for the company? What role do you want Astrobotic to play in the next stage of space exploration?

A: We look forward to helping the U.S. and other nations return to the moon and perhaps even beyond. The moon has vast amounts of frozen water that could be converted to fuel. This would help turn it into a refueling station for missions to the moon and back or farther into space.

Q: What suggestions or advice might you have for other startups and entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh?

A: In order to be successful, you not only have to have passion but persistent passion to get you through the hard times- because there will be those times no matter what.

Q: Anything else you would like for us to showcase about Astrobotic and its development?

A: Yes, due to our NASA contract and other expansion opportunities at the company- we are hiring. We are looking for engineers, computer scientists, managers, and more.

*Answers are paraphrased.