NASA Shows Off Moon Mining Robot

JonB

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Sep 16, 2012
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NASA Shows Off Moon Mining Robot



NASA's new lunar rover is a huge departure from previous robot designs.

NASA's newest robot prototype won't be carrying around any delicate claws, lasers, or microscopes. No spectrometers or sample analysis devices. Instead, it'll drive five times faster than Mars Curiosity and carry a pair of big, robust barrel excavators. The robot is called RASSOR, pronounced "razor," for Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Robot. RASSOR's goal, though, is possibly more interesting than its design. RASSOR is intended to be a moon miner, gathering materials using its excavators to drop lunar soil into a processing plant - that plant would turn water and ice in the soils into rocket fuel and breathing air for astronauts. Currently the most expensive part of space travel is launching the water and fuel into space, since 90% of the rocket's mass is made of propellant. If you can make that propellant on the lunar surface, you're a big step closer to sustainable, cheap space travel. "This has been kind of the dream, the mission they gear this around," said A.J. Nick, an engineer on the RASSOR team.

The concept mission for RASSOR is a 2,000 pound payload delivered to the moon, of which only about 100 pounds would be RASSOR itself - the rest is an industrial fixture for the lunar surface,a processor for making the lunar soil into air, water, and propellant. RASSOR's biggest hurdle is the sheer amount of time one little robot will have to work to generate enough resources - 16 hours a day for five years. "Right now, we just want to make sure nothing in our design precludes it from doing that," said Jason Schuler, another RASSOR engineer. NASA's calling RASSOR "a blue collar robot" - a robot designed for heavy industry in outer space.

The team is already working on RASSOR 2, which will likely be built in 2014. RASSOR 2 is intended to resemble a launch ready robot, but the engineers have a major hurdle to jump before then: wheels or treads? Recent tests have revealed that pebbles can slip into the current design and clog the gears, making the tracks slip off. The engineers have tried the rover on a variety of surfaces, but nothing can quite compare to what the lunar surface will be like. "You can't take for granted that it's going to work like it does on grass or concrete or even on sand," said Schuler. To this end, the engineers are constructing a 25-foot-square area of faux lunar surface before continuing testing.

Source & Image: NASA [http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/RASSOR.html]


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Saulkar

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Just use a John Deere for Christ's Sakes... oh wait, that won't work on the moon! Just use a Bob Cat for Christ's Sake.
 

JonB

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This is pretty cool, but nobody tell Sam Rockwell
 

uchytjes

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Yes! Finally making steps towards colonizing the moon!

Also: Whatever happened to that asteroid mining thing that made the news a while back?
 

The Lugz

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Saulkar said:
Just use a John Deere for Christ's Sakes... oh wait, that won't work on the moon! Just use a Bob Cat for Christ's Sake.
Bobcats are good toys, but it requires maintenance and nothing about it would last 5 years in lunar conditions
the intense solar radiation would chew up conventional rubber components ( tires, hoses, seals ) in no time flat compared to conditions on earth

it requires fuel, and the nearest supply is quite some distance away so it will need an electric conversion
to run on a nuclear source, or a charging platform of some kind

it isn't designed for radio control so you're going to have to fit it

it's ability to dig versus the mass of payload could doubtlessly be improved
why have an inch thick steel firewall if you've got an electric drive?
why have a cab if you are radio controlled, ect.

it probably isn't particularly efficient as a platform, and as it will be expected to run continuously for 5 years
spending time recharging because of design flaws isn't a good use of time

and yes all those problems are fixable, but by the time you've done all those things it will no longer resemble a bobcat but a custom robot that digs rocks on the moon so nasa have just decided to build that to begin with
a decision that makes sense overall imo
 

ron1n

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RASSOR's biggest hurdle is the sheer amount of time one little robot will have to work to generate enough resources - 16 hours a day for five years.


I already feel for the little guy =(
 

weirdee

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Apr 11, 2011
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they're going to need stronger digging equipment for the gundanium
 

Chrono212

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May 19, 2009
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My uncle works on this project and just emailed me about this project going 'viral'.

Yeah, I think he was right.

Any excuse to get back to the moon. But first we need to perfect cloaning and find a sample of Sam Rockwell to send up, then well be all set.
 

ShadowKatt

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And here I thought NASA was going away. I wonder how much longer than can keep it going.
 

Spuds

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I might have missed something here but i don't understand "enough resources". Enough resources for what?
 

Combustion Kevin

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every time this sorta news gets out, I imagine one of their engineers going like: "check out my new, kickass robot! :D", with the same childlike glee as a six year old with his lego's.
 

CommanderL

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Nasa keep being awesome and america stop spending so much money on military and more on nasa
 

JonB

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I wonder if it'd ever be possible to reach a point where the moon is made to have the same atmosphere as earth.

Would be trippy to look up and see a green, blue and white moon instead of a grey one.

Maybe in a book...
 

Albino Boo

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A Smooth Criminal said:
I wonder if it'd ever be possible to reach a point where the moon is made to have the same atmosphere as earth.

Would be trippy to look up and see a green, blue and white moon instead of a grey one.

Maybe in a book...
The moon's gravity is to low to hold an atmosphere. You could build domes but thats about it.
 

Hagi

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A Smooth Criminal said:
I wonder if it'd ever be possible to reach a point where the moon is made to have the same atmosphere as earth.

Would be trippy to look up and see a green, blue and white moon instead of a grey one.

Maybe in a book...
Is the Moon's gravity even large enough to hold an oxygen atmosphere?

Can't say for certain but I don't think it was. We'd have to somehow massively increase it's mass which would cause Havoc with the Earth's tides and possibly more.
 

Pinkamena

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Jun 27, 2011
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It's really cool to see NASA pouring money into projects like these, now that they won't have to spend all their money on missions to ISS (private firms are gonna do that now).
 

dangoball

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A Smooth Criminal said:
I wonder if it'd ever be possible to reach a point where the moon is made to have the same atmosphere as earth.

Would be trippy to look up and see a green, blue and white moon instead of a grey one.

Maybe in a book...
Anime called The Vision of Escaflowne worked with that idea (in case you care: it's mecha with magic and quite interesting).

In reality though? Mass of the Moon is too small to sustain any kind of atmosphere, so unless someone thinks of a way to artificially increase it, no blue/green moon for you. Not to mention that increasing mass of the Moon would seriously fuck up Earth's ecosystem :p
Oh well, one can dream, right?

A question though, for the politically savvy: why can't we have one global space program? NASA, ESA, whatever China has and everything else would be so much more awesome if they could all work together and not building their sandcastles alone. And they wouldn't have to worry about other superpowers sending BOOM-sticks in space :p