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Astrobotic Issues Info-Rich Release on Regolith Management Study for NASA February 26, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in Astrobotic, Google Lunar X Prize, NASA.
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Astrobotic Technology has issued a release, complete with the above rendering and a juicy PowerPoint presentation, detailing their report on lunar regolith management that they are presenting on Friday to the currently ongoing NASA-industry conference in Washington, D.C. on lunar surface systems.

Their NASA-sponsored study (with technical assistance from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute) looked at the problems with lunar regolith (dust):

“NASA faces a challenge in planning the layout for its outpost, which is expected to begin operations in 2020. 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.” –Dr. William “Red” Whittaker, chairman of Astrobotic and Carnegie Mellon professor of robotics, from the release.

The study identified two options: construct a berm around the outpost to shield it, or construct the pad itself out of local materials, paving a grit-free area. Local materials have been suggested for lunar construction before–a notable example being lunar concrete.

The PDF PowerPoint presentation is great stuff–tons of renderings and info. A few highlights:

  • 300kg or smaller robots could construct the berm option in “6 months or less’, if equipped with dump bed bins
  • Berm construction would be composed of “mostly driving” and thus any limitations are largely speed-related
  • Full-on dump beds, versus buckets, are a more complex and mass-requiring design option for the robots but cut down on transport trips significantly
  • A rock-paving method, like seen on the edges of roads here, coud be used to suppress surface dust (depending, of course, on the availability of rocks at the lunar poles)

Check out the full 30-slide presentation for all the nitty-gritty details on Astrobotic’s Moon Digger and Moon Paver concepts, and stay tuned here at Luna C/I, as at least some of the other presentations at the workshop are sure to have details hitting the ‘net soon :)

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