Terraforming a Lunar Crater with Robots

Living on the Moon will be difficult for humans.  Several problems exist for survival on the lunar surface.  Basically, no atmosphere is present on the Moon.   Temperature extremes are difficult to work in for both humans and machines.  There is a two week daytime and a two week nighttime.  And finally, the water that is on the Moon is in the form of ice and it is only in a few craters at the poles.  Robots could help solve some of these problems.

Terriforming to Build a Moon Base

Illustration of a Moon Base – NASA Illustration

NASA currently has a new project that they have funded to send robots to the moon. The idea is to provide sunlight to the Shackleton Crater.

NASA wants to turn the moon into a lunar science lab: Fleet of robots could terraform Shackleton Crater

Daily Mail:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3153475/Nasa-want-turn-moon-lunar-science-lab-Fleet-robots-terraform-football-pitch-sized-Shackleton-Crater.html#ixzz3gRJozgpJ

Currently, the plan is to have the robots use reflectors to redirect sunlight into the bottom of the crater, which is located at the lunar South Pole. What would result from this is a warm environment for other robots to work in at the depths of the crater.

What makes Shackleton Crater such an attractive location for this large terraforming project is its massive size (roughly 130 square miles), as well as the fact it’s entirely flanked by peaks measuring some 14,000 feet in height.

Digital Trends: http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/nasa-is-considering-terraforming-the-moon-with-autonomous-robots/#ixzz3gRRHD5Do

The first robots to arrive for this project would be “transformer type” machines that would unfold into a giant reflective mirror to redirect sunlight into the crater.  Following those robots would be scientific and exploration bots whose job it would be to sample and process materials from the depths of the crater.

According to Adrian Stoica of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “The TransFormer (TF) concept is a paradigm shift to operating in Extreme Environments (EE). TFs are systems that direct energy into energy-depleted (extreme) environments, transforming them, locally, around robots or humans, into mild micro-environments.”

Science Alert:  NASA is investigating the possibility of terraforming the Moon. With Robots.

Shackleton crater is thought to hold a valuable resource of water ice. Tapping into this frozen treasure will provide both liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen in addition to liquid water. All of these products are essential for further exploration in the solar system. In the future, what happens is, this lunar crater becomes an interplanetary gas station for the exploration of the solar system.


Shackelton Crater Photo Credit: NASA LRO

So what are your thoughts regarding this project?  Although this project is only in the very early prototype stages, it is nonetheless an intriguing idea.  Robots have always been the pioneers in space exploration blazing the trail for human explorers to follow. And that will certainly be the case here.  I look forward to a conversation about this proposal.



Digital Trends: http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/nasa-is-considering-terraforming-the-moon-with-autonomous-robots/#ixzz3gRRHD5Do

Science Alert:  NASA is investigating the possibility of terraforming the Moon. With Robots.

Daily Mail:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3153475/Nasa-want-turn-moon-lunar-science-lab-Fleet-robots-terraform-football-pitch-sized-Shackleton-Crater.html#ixzz3gRJozgpJ

Robots That Can Be Controlled From Orbit

Photo Credit:  NASA

Robots have long been the pathfinders for the exploration of space.  Surveyor landers went to the surface of the Moon to test out the surface before men walked on it.  Mars has been host to a number of robotic explorers paving the way for future human landings there.  Even when people finally get to orbit the Red Planet, they will probably want to send out robotic probes to test out the expected landing sites first.  This technology might even find its way to planets or moons outside our solar system.  To do this, the astronauts will need to control the robots from orbit.  This is the purpose of a new rover being developed by the European Space Agency.  Read the article at the link below for more details.

Experts with the European Space Agency (ESA) announce the creation of a new rover, which is meant to act as a testbed for a new remote-control technology. Astronauts in low-Earth orbit (LEO) will control the machine through specialized, exoskeleton-like …

Controlling Robots on Exoplanets from Orbit – Softpedia
Wed, 06 Jul 2011 18:33:31 GMT

Japanese Robot to Walk on the Moon by 2015

The next step on the Moon may well be taken by a robot.  In a country that produces robots to do almost anything you can imagine, a robot to walk on the lunar surface is not so far-fetched.  The Japanese just may be the next nation to plant a flag on the dusty surface of Earth’s largest satellite.  That is the plan of the Osaka-based “Space Oriented Higashiosaka Leading Association” (SOHLA) which announced its goal of putting a robot on the moon by 2015.

SOHLA consists of six private space technology companies with connections to governmental space research institutions.  The group estimates it will take about $10.5 million to make the project work. SOHLA is trying to build on the success of the satellite it launched into orbit last year, Maido-1.  The bipedal humanoid robot planned for the Moon is tentatively named Maido-kun.

Some think that the mission of this pioneering robot should be more than a simply flag planting ceremony, but even if this machine does not discover any new resources for Japan, it may well show the world that the Japanese have set their sights on laying claim to whatever valuable materials may be located there in the future.  Read the story at the links below.

Image Credit: SOHLA via Popular Science

Story by Jeremy Hsu at Popular Science  "That's one small step for robots, one giant leap sideways for space exploration. …" 

See all stories on this topic

Via Popular ScienceCrunchGearNODE [JP], and Pink Tentacle

Bipedal Japanese Robot Will Walk on the Moon by 2015
Popular Science
Thu, 29 Apr 2010 15:27:51 GMT

Lunar Roving Russian Robot Found After 37 Years

A Russian robot rover has been photographed from lunar orbit after 37 years.  The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) imaged the area on one of its orbits of the Moon.  Then, Phil Stooke, a researcher from The University of Western Ontario, solved a 37-year-old space mystery using lunar images released yesterday by NASA and maps from his own atlas of the moon.  Lunokhod 2 stands 4 ft 5 in high and is about 5 ft 7 in long and 4 ft 11 in wide, and it shows up clearly in the overhead photo.  For mobility, it used 8 independently powered wheels.

As explained on the Wikipedia site, “Lunokhod 2 was equipped with three television cameras, one mounted high on the rover for navigation, which could return high resolution images.  These images were used by a five-man team of controllers on Earth who sent driving commands to the rover in real time. Power was supplied by a solar panel on the inside of a round hinged lid which covered the instrument bay, which would charge the batteries when opened. A polonium-210 radioisotope heater unit was used to keep the rover warm during the long lunar nights.  After landing, the Lunokhod 2 took TV images of the surrounding area, then rolled down a ramp to the surface at 01:14 UT on January 16 and took pictures of the Luna 21 lander and landing site, driving for 30 meters. After a period of charging up its batteries, it took more pictures of the site and the lander, and then set off to explore the moon.

The rover would run during the lunar day, stopping occasionally to recharge its batteries with the solar panels. At night the rover hibernated until the next sunrise, heated by the radioactive source.”

This rugged robot still holds the record for distance driven on another planetary body.  It covered about 23 miles on its lunar trek.  By comparison, the Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, has traveled just over 12 miles. 

It is easy to forget sometimes that robots have been exploring space for decades, and although today’s machines are more capable in some ways, the explorer robots of the past accomplished some amazing feats considering the technology of the times.  You can read the complete story at the site linked to at the bottom of the page.  You can also click on the photo below for the article.


Photo Credit:  NASA

A Canadian researcher has helped solve a 37-year-old space mystery using lunar images released by NASA and maps from an atlas of the moon.

Russian lunar rover found: 37-year-old space mystery solved
(author unknown)
Wed, 17 Mar 2010 18:00:00 GMT

Robotic Hamster Ball Design for Google Lunar X Prize

New Scientist has an article on the contenders for the Google Lunar X Prize.  If you haven’t heard of this, it is a contest sponsored by Google to see who can land a rover on the Moon and accomplish a set of pre-assigned tasks.  Do this and your team gets a great deal of recognition and $20 million. 

The Google Lunar X Prize site details what the rovers need to accomplish:  “The Google Lunar X PRIZE is a $30 million international competition to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon, travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send images and data back to the Earth. Teams must be at least 90% privately funded and must be registered to compete by December 31, 2010. The first team to land on the Moon and complete the mission objectives will be awarded $20 million; the full first prize is available until December 31, 2012. After that date, the first prize will drop to $15 million. The second team to do so will be awarded $5 million. Another $5 million will awarded in bonus prizes. The final deadline for winning the prize is December 31, 2014.” 

So, on the New Scientist site there photos of some of the more interesting and unique entries.  They cover the range of hoppers, wheeled rovers, and, in one case, a sphere-shaped robot reminiscent of a hamster ball.  You can see this planned lunar bot in the photo below.  Click on the photo to go to the page in the New Scientist article about this creation by Team Frednet, one of the Google X Prize entrants.  And look at the video on You Tube of the PicoRover, as it is called.  This innovative approach to a lunar rover is very intriguing because it weighs only 500 grams.  It certainly won’t need a Saturn 5 to get it to the Moon.  And besides, if this design doesn't make  it to the Moon, it certainly has a future as a cat toy.

Hamster Ball Moon Rover 

Image: Team Frednet/Joshua Tristancho

More than a dozen teams are racing to claim a $30 million prize for landing a robot rover on the moon – see the most advanced prototypes so far

Hamster balls and lunar hoppers: meet the X Prize teams
Wed, 12 Aug 2009 14:50:14 GMT

Weekly Newswrap: Leftover Stuff

This week’s Newwrap is best described as leftovers.  These stories are like the food remaining after a big dinner:  I didn't want to throw them out because they could still make a good meal.  

Again, the subjects range all over the place.  A robot in a wedding dress walks down the runway at a fashion show in Japan is today’s entry.  There are also underwater robots, surgical robots, and robots to help humans.  Finally, from the beginning of the week, there are the robots that may advertise on the Moon.  Quite an eclectic group of stories to look at for this week.  I hope you enjoy them.

Robot Hits Runway at Osaka Fashion Show

Tokyo, Jul 26 (PTI) Japanese scientists have made a robot in an elaborate wedding dress walk down the runway at an Osaka fashion show, a development seen as
See all stories on this topic

Robot hits runway at Osaka fashion show
Press Trust of India – New Delhi,India
Sun, 26 Jul 2009 13:16:19 GMT

Robby the Robot goes underwater (St. Tammany News)

Robotics, especially underwater robotics is still a new profession. Used by oil and gas companies to repair underwater pipelines and drilling platforms, underwater robots have replaced human divers in dangerous depths that can crush a human diver.

Robby the Robot goes underwater (St. Tammany News)
Thu, 23 Jul 2009 15:27:29 GMT

High-tech robot allows doctors to treat soldiers remotely

Dr. Kevin Chung appears on the screen of the robot that helps him treat soldiers from afar. A revolutionary robot mounted with a high-tech camera is helping
See all stories on this topic

High-tech robot allows doctors to treat soldiers remotely
CNN International – USA
Thu, 23 Jul 2009 13:44:26 GMT

Archie robot wants to helps humans despite creepy appearance – DVICE

Archie robot wants to helps humans despite creepy appearance
Though it may look crude on its surface, the fact is that the Archie robot is the result of a lot of hard work by researchers at the Vienna University of

Archie robot wants to helps humans despite creepy appearance – DVICE
Wed, 22 Jul 2009 08:28:28 GMT

Robots to Advertise on the Moon

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah, July 20 /PRNewswire/ — It's one giant leap for robot-kind. New Shadow Shaping technology creates images on the Moon that can be
See all stories on this topic

Robots to Advertise on the Moon
PR Newswire (press release) – New York,NY,USA
Mon, 20 Jul 2009 11:19:26 GMT

Astrobotic Technology Lunar Robot Update

Here’s another take on the Astrobotic Technology robot that is slated to voyage to the Moon in 2011.  These two stories cover the power angle of this future lunar explorer.  This robot will use solar power as its energy source and it is being designed to survive the heat of lunar noon.  Check out both stories linked to below.

Mike writes "Carnegie Mellon roboticist Dr. William Whittaker has teamed up with Astrobiotic Technology to develop a solar powered moon rover that will explore the Apollo landing site in 2011.

Solar-Powered Moon Rover To Explore Apollo Landing
Thu, 23 Jul 2009 05:25:39 GMT

Solar-Powered Moon Rover to Explore Apollo Landing Site

Wed, 22 July 2009

Astrobotic Technology Reveals Robot Design To Survive Moon’s Extreme Heat

In a post today at IEEE Spectrum, the design for Astrobotic Technology’s entry into the Google Lunar X Prize in revealed.  This unique concept is conceived around the idea of surviving the incredible heat of a lunar noon which is 270 degrees F or 130 degrees C.  Just how will it accomplish this feat?  David Gump, the company's president, gives the details in a feature on the Astrobotic’s website:

The robot beats the heat by keeping a cool side aimed away from the Sun to radiate heat off to the black sky. It travels toward or away from the sun (generally east or west) without turning its radiator into the light. Only the solar cells on the hot side ever face the sun. The robot can travel north and south by tacking like a sailboat.

Astrobotics Robot

Photo Credit:  Astrobotic Technology

New design overcomes intense lunar heat

For the company vying for the Google Lunar X Prize, it's all about keeping the (robot's) head cool.  

Astrobotic Technology Reveals Robot Design To Survive Moon's Extreme Heat
Tue, 21 Jul 2009 00:24:12 GMT

Robot Scouts May Assist Humans in the Exploration of the Moon

Robots have been the trailblazers in space exploration.  In particular, Ranger, Surveyor, and the Lunar Orbiters paved the way to the lunar landings in the Apollo Program.  Now, tests are planned to see if robot scouts can aid human explorers on future missions to the Moon.  What these current and future robots will do that sets them apart from the earlier machines is that they will work closely with the humans on the moon’s surface. 

During Apollo surface operations, the astronauts did recon and geological exploration at the same time.  In the return to the Moon around 2020, robots will be tasked to reconnaissance.  This should make the astronauts work more productive.  During the upcoming testing of the K10, researchers hope to show that robots can increase the science return of the human missions.  Check out the article at the link below for more information.

K10 Rover

Credit: NASA Image

K10 Rover during testing on Devon Island at the Haughton Mars Project Research Station in July 2007.  Robotic Recon experiment will investigate how robots can improve the productivity and science return of human missions. Why …

Robotic Reconnaissance May Improve Human Exploration of the Moon – SpaceRef
Thu, 11 Jun 2009 19:37:00 GMT