Robotic Lunar 'MoonDigger' Bulldozers Planned By NASA
Lunar bulldozer robots may perform site preparation for moonbases. A NASA-sponsored study, prepared by Astrobotic Technology Inc. with technical assistance from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, was presented last Friday at a NASA Lunar Surface Systems conference.
“NASA faces a challenge in planning the layout for its outpost, which is expected to begin operations in 2020,” said Dr. William “Red” Whittaker, chairman and chief technical officer of Astrobotic and a Carnegie Mellon professor of robotics. “For efficient cargo transfer, the landing site needs to be close to the outpost’s crew quarters and laboratories. Each rocket landing and takeoff, however, will accelerate lunar grit outwards from the pad. With no atmosphere to slow it down, the dry soil would sandblast the outpost.”
Two potential solutions to the problem were examined: 1) creation of a berm around the landing site and 2) creation of a hard-surface landing pad using lunar materials.
The research team determined that 2 MoonDiggers weighing about 330 pounds apiece could work together in building a suitable berm in just six months. A berm 8.5 feet tall in a 160-foot semi-circle would require moving 2.6 million pounds of lunar 'dirt.'
Utilizing the second of the two alternatives mentioned above requires that the small robots comb the lunar surface for rocks, gathering them for a durable grit-free landing space.
The robotic lunar bulldozers would not be operated by astronauts; instead, the robotic 'dozers would be directed by a combination of direct teleoperation and supervised autonomy by workers on Earth.
This idea is old hat for Pournelle and Niven fans. In their 1981 novel Oath of Fealty, they describe a telepresence bulldozer for just this kind of work.
"Meet Rachel Lief," Lunan said. "Ms. Lief is a bulldozer driver." Lunan paused for effect. "As you see, Ms. Lief doesn't look like your typical tractor driver..."
"But then," Lunan said, "not every bulldozer operator works on the Moon." The cameras followed the trim woman into another room, where there was a replica of a large tractor. It was surrounded by TV screens. One screen showed an astronaut sitting in the driver's seat, staring impatiently into the screen. A bleak, nearly colorless pit showed over his left shoulder.
"About time you got here," the astronaut said.
"We were busy," Rachel sat down in the driver's seat and took hold of the controls. "I relieve you..."
The bulldozer moved through the lunar strip mine...
(Read more about Pournelle and Niven's telepresence bulldozer)
See also this video of the bulldozer attachment to the Lunar Chariot; this is a multi-purpose vehicle intended for use by astronauts on the Moon. Read the previous article for more information about it - NASA's Chariot Is Not Your Father's Moon Rover.
From Carnegie Mellon University; see also this excellent Astrobiotic MoonDigger report (pdf) and this earlier report on Lunar In-Situ Resource Utilization (pdf).
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/3/2009)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 8 )
Related News Stories -
Is 'The Pulsar Positioning System' Evidence For SETI?
'For a hyperspace jump, you need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.' - Harry Harrison, 1959.
Are Observed Radio Bursts An Alien Propulsion Technology?
'These cones were driven through space by light pressure, the possibilities of which force they had long utilized.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1929.
Caltech's ET Laboratory Looks For New Earths
'...set my automatic astronomical instruments to searching for a habitable planet.'- Edmond Hamilton, 1936.
Shh! USAF's Secret X-37B Space Plane Breaks Record
'More airplane than spaceship...' - Robert Heinlein, 1951.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Cattle Avoidance Feature In Indian Autonomous Cars
'The driver went about the business of gently slipping the teflon-coated metal scoop beneath the first animal...'
Project KOVR Fashion Protection From Infosphere
'... the entire shroudlike membrane took on whatever physical characteristics were projected at any nanosecond.'
Twist Bioscience High Density Digital Data On DNA
'They tied the memory to the bloodline and that was their record!'
'We're Not Creating A Terminator' Say Russians About Gun-Wielding Robot Fedor
Nobody is thinking about the Terminator. Westworld, maybe.
Vantablack Now IMMEASURABLY Black
'a black coating now that’s ninety-nine percent absorptive...'
Mercedes-Benz Autonomous Taxi Fleet In 3 Years
'... the taxi utilized sophisticated electronic sensors to perceive its surroundings.'
Is 'The Pulsar Positioning System' Evidence For SETI?
'For a hyperspace jump, you need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.'
Someday, You Might Like VR Enough To Move In
'That barrier was going to melt away someday soon. The transhumanists had promised...'
Humans Use Mental Power For Turtle Slavery
Now we need to start looking for animals with fingers...
Solar-Powered Moisture Vaporator
'The atmosphere yielded its moisture with reluctance.'
DxtER! Tricorder Prize Won By Final Frontier Medical Devices
We've been waiting a long time for this, Star Trek fans.
President Trump's Wall As Otra Nation Hyperloop
'...an hollow tube must be constructed the whole distance... as to admit a four wheeled carriage...'
Pickup Lines From Artificial Intelligences
'They hate us, you know... The humans. They'll stop at nothing.'
Pooper Scooper Drone Robot Watchdog 1
'Robots pick up the garbage and junk...'
Cassie Robot Brings AT-ST Walker To Life
There's even a log test!
Hundreds Of Robot Lawnmowers Invade Texas Town
'The mower reached the edge of the lawn, clucked to itself...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories