NASA recently took some of its most promising new concepts for living and working on the moon and tried them out in a moon-like location near Lake Moses, Washington. Scout robots, rovers, cargo carriers, cranes and spacesuits endured sand storms and temperature swings to help test out the prototypes and prepare for future lunar expeditions. Although conditions on the moon will be much harsher, one investigator said, “It’s as close as we can get in a terrestrial environment to the lunar environment.” Above is the Mobile Lunar Transporter, which includes unique features that allow each of its six wheels to move independently, giving the vehicle the ability to drive in any direction. The human drivers stood in turrets on the “trucks.”
JPL tested two ATHLETE cargo-moving rovers they are developing. These rather odd-looking transport vehicles have legs capable of rolling or walking over extremely rough or steep terrain. They can carry, manipulate, deposit and transport payloads to desired sites. Maybe they’ll become the lunar version of a Winnebago, and future lunar astronauts can also take them out on weekend camping trips.
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This lunar bulldozer, called LANCE (Lunar Attachment Node for Construction Excavation), is designed to be used with the lunar truck. The bulldozer can be used to help prepare a site for building an outpost on the moon.
These K10 scout robots can perform highly repetitive and long-duration tasks. During the tests, the rovers surveyed simulated lunar landing sites and built topographic and panoramic 3-D terrain models. One rover used a ground-penetrating radar to assess subsurface structures. The other used a 3-D scanning laser system known as LIDAR to create topographic maps. They can also perform science reconnaissance.
And of course, we can’t have humans on the moon without having spacesuits, so some of the new design of spacesuits were tested as well.
More info about these tests, which took place on June 2-13, 2008.