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Moon Space NASA

NASA Wants Fast Moonbuggies and Solid Lunar Lander 117

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the sounds-like-a-dream-i-had-one-time dept.
coondoggie writes "NASA may have its eyes on the Sun and Mercury this week but it is clearly focusing on the moon for the future. NASA is soliciting proposals from the scientific and aerospace communities for design ideas for its next lunar lander. NASA officials said the Altair spacecraft will deliver four astronauts to the lunar surface late during the next decade. According to NASA Altair will be capable of landing four astronauts on the moon, providing life support and a base for weeklong initial surface exploration missions, and returning the crew to the Orion spacecraft that will bring them home to Earth. And while they won't be flying to the moon but rather flying around the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., the space agency has set April 4-5 as the dates for 'The 15th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race'. The race is for high school and college teams where they build and race their lightweight, two-person lunar vehicles. More than 40 student teams from 18 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Canada and India have already registered." My proposal just features a domo-kun mouth and giant pink ears attached to an El Camino. Money please!
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NASA Wants Fast Moonbuggies and Solid Lunar Lander

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  • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @01:21PM (#22068530) Journal
    Is an automated drilling/mining/processing plant. There are mineral deposits up there. If we could go up there and have the materials made on site, so we only needed to set up the base, a long term moon base would be fairly cheap.

    Energy certainly wouldn't be a problem, with every day sunny.
    • by DrBuzzo (913503) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @01:30PM (#22068666) Homepage
      A lunar day is 28 earth days and is only sunny 50% of the time.
      • by ByOhTek (1181381)
        so the plant only works half time until it has enough materials to make a wire to other solar cells to give it a longer energy input time.

        Also, if it was made near a pole, and vertical solar panel were used...
      • True, which is why you put it at (or rather very near to) one of the poles, which happens to also be a great place for astronomy. And a few clicks away in any direction is 28 day light/dark & earth shielding for other purposes.
        • The areas which actually have eternal sunlight are actually very, very small. They are also at a very, very acute angle to the sun - which means either very inefficient solar collectors, or a very large amount of structure to hold them at a better angle.
           
          The advantages of being at the lunar poles are vastly overstated.
        • by 4D6963 (933028)

          which happens to also be a great place for astronomy

          Huh? How would be at the poles be any good? You'd only ever get to see 50% of the sky, it won't shield you against the Earth as well as the rest of the hidden face of the Moon (which is the place to go for radio-astronomy) and errr.. what are the advantages again?

          • At the poles are places that have eternal light. IOW, you can have solar power 24x7. In addition, you can moderate teh temperatures. The major issues with the moon will be:
            1. Power.
            2. Supplies (esp oxygen, water, and food)
            3. Temperature extremes. In the sun, you are 250C. In the dark, you are -250C. or something like that. It is difficult and expesnive to design housing for that. OTH, if you are in a location where the temp is a constant, then you can design very easily. In particular, if you have 24x7 access to
      • by TigerNut (718742)
        yeah, but for that 50% you have guaranteed sunlight. Since the solar flux will be similar to Earth's it should be around 1 kW per square meter, right? It should be fairly straightforward to design a heat containment system that can capture sufficient energy during the daytime, to operate during the dark period and keep temperatures in a reasonable range.
    • by iamlucky13 (795185) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @02:11PM (#22069186)
      Unfortunately, such things are not as easy in real life as they are in star trek. Have you seen even small processing operations here on earth? Even when you know exactly what you're working with, it has a high percentage of what you want, and the wheat is easily separated from the chaff, it takes a large piece of rather expensive machinery to accomplish it. Wheat and chaff case in point: a typical John Deere combine weighs about 12 tons. All it does it cut wheat, seperate the kernels from the heads, and dump the straw out the back. And it needs gas and air in sufficient quantities to produce about 200 hp to operate. Obviously that's a high volume farm implement, not an optimized space tool, but I stand by the basic point.

      Think about what that extensive mineral utilization entails. You're limited by what's up there. The lunar regolith is mostly aluminum oxide, silica, and some calcium, with trace amounts of various gasses like hydrogen and helium. Suppose then you want fiberglass. That's an easy one. You suspend the regolith in a liquid and separate the silica from the alumina based on density. Then you melt the silica and blow it out of a fine nozzle to form strands. Unless you can figure out how to do it in a vaccuum, however, which is plausible, you need a gas to blow it, either brought from earth or boiled out of the regolith.

      That right there is five primary subsystems:
      1.) Power
      2.) Regolith collector
      3.) Silica separator
      4.) Furnace and fiber machine
      5.) Gas storage and/or production.

      But fiberglass is all but useless without epoxy, and making fiberglass parts is a messy, complicated job here on earth. You'd be crazy to stake the success of your lunar base on the ability for a self deploying robot to produce useful and quality controlled parts on the moon. Not to mention, all you've got at that point is structural parts, which are only a fraction of the mass of supplies you need.

      You could look at the same needs for producing aluminum. It gets really interesting when you start looking at the mass of equipment needed to produce sheet aluminum out of cast ingots. The raw aluminum itself is very energy intenstive to produce, requiring 7.5 kW-hours of electricity per pound to reduce from alumina in high volume smelters.

      And I'm not even going to get started on what it takes to make complex shapes like a pressurized habitat or a seal for an airlock.

      All of this is why NASA is looking at landing all the needed supplies on the moon and practicing the techniques with human involvement from the start. The first supplies produced will probably be oxygen (which can be electrolytically separated from the silica, alumina, or small amounts of ice present on the moon), and bricks for radiation protection and insulation sintered from the raw regolith.

      Start simple. As you show you can make useful items from simple processes, then you add complexity.
      • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @02:40PM (#22069566) Journal
        Too many people see problems as insurmountable: While things certainly aren't as easy as in Star Trek, special case solutions can be productive:

        > a typical John Deere combine weighs about 12 tons.
        Yes, but how many tonnes per day does it output? If you don't need that kind of output, it can be smaller.

        > And it needs gas and air in sufficient quantities to produce about 200 hp to operate.
        Due to that being the cheapest method to get it functioning on earth. With more reliable solar energy, you could skip the gas and air on the moon for any processing task which electricity is physically capable of handling.

        > Think about what that extensive mineral utilization entails. You're limited by what's up there. The lunar regolith is mostly
        > aluminum oxide, silica, and some calcium, with trace amounts of various gasses like hydrogen and helium.

        And several areas with notable high quantities of other elements, including but not limited to potassium, carbon, iron, and magnesium. There are places where the high concentrations of these are actually fairly close even.

        > Suppose then you want fiberglass. That's an easy one. You suspend the regolith in a liquid and separate the silica from the
        > alumina based on density. Then you melt the silica and blow it out of a fine nozzle to form strands. Unless you can figure out
        > how to do it in a vaccuum, however, which is plausible, you need a gas to blow it, either brought from earth or boiled out of
        > the regolith.

        Spin the container, quickly. There are many ways to apply pressure.

        > That right there is five primary subsystems:
        > 1.) Power
        Solar
        > 2.) Regolith collector
        Plenty of machines would work for this, being a generic digging tool, possibly with some instrumentation to ascertain rough
        composition.
        > 3.) Silica separator
        This could probably be automated, but I wouldn't know the specific process.
        > 4.) Furnace and fiber machine
        Again, run it on electricity, the process shouldn't be that hard.
        > 5.) Gas storage and/or production.
        Why? Not necessar at all.

        Here's a good example of what *COULD* be done.

        A small solar "digging" rover. It doesn't need to be fast, just reliable. It diggs regolith, and puts it in a bin.
        The bin, once sufficiently full, will close up and heat up. The aluminium and oxygen can be separated. The aluminum, melted, could then be released (possibly through a mechanism designed to pump out plates.
        The oxygen? Bring up some high tolerance balloons to store it.

        Similar processes could be used to make glass.

        Given the regolith composition will be known, a couple simple visual and pressure sensors should be sufficient to get the aluminum out reliably. Next time up, the astronauts just need enough material to assemble the (preferrably thick) aluminum sheeting into a shelter. It doesn't completely eliminate the weight requirements for a shelter of that size (they'll need nitrogen, heating mechanisms, food, etc.), but it will greatly reduce the required weight to make it.

        Not knowing exact compositions up there, other things could potentially be made as well. A lot of simple, but heavy-lift work should be automatable.
        • by Belial6 (794905)
          Don't forget: "And I'm not even going to get started on what it takes to make complex shapes like a pressurized habitat or a seal for an airlock."

          a pressurized habitat does not have to be a complex shape, and BRING THE DOOR FROM EARTH. Just because 99% of the product is domestic, doesn't mean that you can't bring the 1% that would be really hard. It would definitely simplify things for astronauts could show up, install a door, and pressurize, instead of having to build the entire structure.
        • It's always easy when all you do is handwave. Real Life is rather messier than you think.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ByOhTek (1181381)
            True, but we've gotten tech where we can deal with a surprising amount of mess. There are more than a few easily locatable projects that have gains some success in lab trials for automated processing in lunar conditions.

            The point is not to have it build everything (requires a lot of handwaving), but to prevent us from having to move a lot of heavy stuff from the earth to the moon (thus saving a lot of cost, and not really requiring handwaving).
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by DerekLyons (302214)
              Tech in these areas is much less advanced than you assume it to be.

              Do I really need to point out that lab trials are a very long way from actual equipment? And that we haven't got any equivalent machinery on earth that functions like this - despite decades of trying?

              In so far as weight goes - the bare structure (which is all than can be expected to be produced, even with hurricane strength handwaving) is the lightest part of the base. The equipment you'll have to launch to produce it will
        • The parent mentioned a key point, as far as I can tell.

          "Combines" on Earth are made as big as possible to maximize output for given labor. This would not be necessary (at first) in space, and as such extremely small and slow devices could be used.

          Grain cultivators might be huge, but my Lawn Boy can mulch, and it runs all summer on about 4 gallons of gas with no maintenance! Sure, mining, smelting, and forging metals is a little more extreme, but it's all about scale. Given that efficiency (like cost per
          • by iamlucky13 (795185) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @04:56PM (#22071288)

            Am I the only one who sees a self-sustaining materials and manufacturing infrastructure on the moon as being worth any cost today? Without it, we'll never realize our sci-fi dreams of colonizing off the planet.

            This is true. I agree with this part. However, everytime the topic of ISRU comes up, I see plenty of armchair engineers talking lightly about applying it from the get-go at very, very advanced levels, and it's clear they haven't given any real thought to what it takes to achieve the sort of results they're talking about. One of the posters above, for example, dismisses building a pressure vessel for a habitat as fairly elementary. That first of all neglects the point about structural mass actually being a minority of the payload needs for a moon base, and secondly shows an ingorance of the large and specialized tooling needed to build such components here on earth. How much can that infrastructure actually be shrunk down, made lightweight, or made multipurpose by simply sacrificing productivity?

            As I said, I agree if we're going to live in space truly long term, we need to learn to use the resources out there. Once we reach the trade surplus point, we'll have reached that dream of the lunar-industrial age. But it seems like everyone is assuming with a little clever engineering we can do that right now. That's not so. It will take a herculean amount of engineering, testing, re-engineering, failing, succeeding, and taking baby steps to get there.

            That's why the first resource utilization will be simple things. Once you've established a baseline competancy, it's easier to add on to it than to do the whole thing all at once. It also leaves you in a better and less expensive position to react to problems or unanticipated supply or demand changes.

            On the point about sending unmanned missions first. That is actually part of the plan. NASA decided last year they should identify several targets on the moon of scientific interest and send short "sortie" mission similar to the Apollo program there. At the same time, they would also pick a site for a permanent base and land equipment there in advance of a crew. Right now it looks like two missions to send power, basic supplies, and a basic habitat. Then short manned mission to get everything set up. This would be followed by a longer missions with stuff like ISRU equipment, a pressurized rover for long exploration missions, and additional living/science facilities.

            • by guruevi (827432)
              Well, NASA (and other agencies) seem to enlist a lot of these armchair engineers lately in what is called contests for a prize and they have been highly successful (more than the in-house development over the last few decades).

              What some of the armchair engineers here at /. seem to forget (and maybe a lot of them outside of /. too) is that the Moon doesn't have an atmosphere like earth and thus is constantly bombarded with small and large projectiles (that's why it's so much crater). Those projectiles range
            • by dintech (998802)
              and taking baby steps to get there.

              Giant steps are what you take, walking on the moon.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by SETIGuy (33768)

          Here's a good example of what *COULD* be done.

          A small solar "digging" rover. It doesn't need to be fast, just reliable. It diggs regolith, and puts it in a bin.
          The bin, once sufficiently full, will close up and heat up. The aluminium and oxygen can be separated. The aluminum, melted, could then be released (possibly through a mechanism designed to pump out plates.
          The oxygen? Bring up some high tolerance balloons to store it.

          If it's so easy, let's see you do the same thing on earth.

          You do realize you're talking about dissociating alumina and storing the molten aluminum, right? Inside a lightweight vehicle? 1.7 MJ/mol binding energy? Melting point of 2054C? (There is a reason that Aluminum used to be more expensive than gold.) Even the commercial aluminum extraction process requires dissolving the alumina in molten cryolite (sodium hexafluoroaluminate) at 980C and requires pre-extraction of the aluminum oxide from the ot

      • by vrmlguy (120854)
        NASA has been looking into self-replicating lunar factories since at least 1980. http://www.islandone.org/MMSG/aasm/AASM53.html [islandone.org] presents a proposal for a 100-ton "seed" factory that could replicate itself in one year, using 5-10 tons (per replica) of "vitamin" components supplied from Earth. (For comparison, the Apollo lunar lander delivered ~25 tons to the lunar surface.) We now know much more about the lunar surface, so some parts of the proposal need to be tweaked, but MIT has been running workshops o
        • by Rei (128717)
          Indeed they have. Now, see each one of the arrows in this graph [islandone.org]? That's an entire industrial process, few of which are particularly simple. See each of those inputs? Each is an entire mining operation and/or recovery circuit from another mining operation. See all of those "C"s, "F"s, "N"s, "P"s, and "H"s? Those are in incredibly miniscule quantities on the moon.

          Getting the picture of the scale that's being talked about?
          • by vrmlguy (120854)
            I'm not sure what your point is. The graph is from the paper I cited, and the authors go into some detail on how the various sub-processes will fit together. Yes, those "C"s, "F"s, "N"s, "P"s, and "H"s are only present in miniscule quantities on the moon, but a robotic manufacturing operation won't require large quantities of them to self-replicate. After a few years, you'll have dozens of self-repairing facilities operational, and then you'll shift to producing consumables for human tourists.
            • by Rei (128717)
              Won't require large quantities? Where on Earth are you getting that from? H is part of "H2O", as in all of the bulk acids and solutes used in the process. C is an essential component in a number of the industrial processes use. F may be the most critical component, as it's through hydrofluoric acid reductionleaching that they propose to extract metals. N is part of NH3 (more H), also used in the critical leach process. And so on. And recovery of gasses is hard enough even here on Earth; it'd be even
              • by vrmlguy (120854)
                The biggest industrial process will involve the casting of paving stones and Lego-like components from molten rock. The only limiting factor for self-replication is chlorine, which is needed to refine aluminum from lunar materials. The other elements that you mention may not be plentiful in any absolute sense, but they are plentiful enough. For example, Helium-3 is present at concentrations on the order of 0.01 ppm, but there are serious proposals from China and Russia to mine that; by comparison, those
        • (For comparison, the Apollo lunar lander delivered ~25 tons to the lunar surface.)

          The Apollo Lunar Module massed about 15000 Kg, including fuel. What actually landed on the moon was pretty close to 7000 Kg.

          If it had been designed purely for dropping a payload on the moon, the payload would have been comparable in size to the Ascent Module, which massed about 4700 Kg.

          • by vrmlguy (120854)

            The Apollo Lunar Module massed about 15000 Kg, including fuel. What actually landed on the moon was pretty close to 7000 Kg.

            My bad. I misinterpreted this quote from the paper: "100 tons is a credible system mass in terms of foreseeable NASA launch capabilities to the lunar surface, representing very roughly the lunar payload capacity of four Apollo missions to the Moon."

            If it had been designed purely for dropping a payload on the moon, the payload would have been comparable in size to the Ascent Module, w

            • I'm going to go out on a limb here, but according to Wikipedia, the Saturn V delivered about 47,000 kg to lunar orbit. That's 51.7 tons. Using the same ratioo as the LM, that gives you a bit over 24 tons landing on the moon.

              I'll buy that. Remember that 1/4 to 1/3 of that 24 tons is the lander itself, which is not necessarily useful payload. Though I imagine that a sizable chunk of it can be designed as dual-use - if nothing else, the fuel tanks can be made into water tanks for the base.

              Still and all, th

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Rei (128717)
        This poster is dead-on. There's a "long tail" for almost everything produced by human society today, things ranging from consumable parts or fluids for mining and processing equipment to all sorts of random chemicals that can be involved in the process. And each of those parts and chemicals has their own long tail.

        Look at aluminum. The above poster was kind enough not to mention all of what you need to convert aluminum ores like bauxite into aluminum. Let's assume bauxite. First, you have to mine it, t
        • by Hucko (998827)
          Most of the long tail scenarios are such that are the most economical and rapid production. Most if not all extraction processes have alternative processes that on a relatively small scale are more efficient. Their problem for commercial enterprises are that they are slow, often extremely slow. We are going to be waiting around anyway, why not have these types of processes doing the slow extraction. Yes, they aren't perfect, but they are something! (Which is almost always better than doing nothing. Almost.)
      • by savuporo (658486)
        Look up the work done in Space Vacuum Epitaxy Center, Houston. There is a design for buggy/rover that crawls over lunar regolith and builds a mat of solar cells on the surface. ( Google on Ignatiev, Freundlich, Lunar .. )
        Decoded version [innovations-report.com].
        Also dig around on ISRUInfo.com [isruinfo.com], especially in their conference proceedings [isruinfo.com] sections. There are lots and lots of ideas for designing the hardware to be applicable in small scale missions.
        • by SETIGuy (33768)

          Look up the work done in Space Vacuum Epitaxy Center, Houston. There is a design for buggy/rover that crawls over lunar regolith and builds a mat of solar cells on the surface. ( Google on Ignatiev, Freundlich, Lunar .. )
          I'll look when they build a working model.
          • by savuporo (658486)
            doh .. they did build a prototype. Can lead horse to water, but cant make him drink, eh ?
      • by Firethorn (177587)
        requiring 7.5 kW-hours of electricity per pound to reduce from alumina in high volume smelters.

        So we'd be able to get a pound of aluminum per square meter of solar system, per earth day, on average?

        Sounds very doable for me, especially if we're not in a hurry.

        Still, I'd have to agree that setting up any sort of manufacturing plant on the moon is going to be incredably difficult. Just look at how many different industries it takes to make something so common as an iPod here on Earth, then figure in the comp
      • by njh (24312)
        On the moon you have two fantastic resources that could change the game completely: high vacuum and strong predictable solar. You can thus achieve temperatures approaching the blackbody temp of the sun (6kK) using lightweight reflective films. Forget about PV and design your systems to use photons directly.
    • by shdwtek (898320)

      Is an automated drilling/mining/processing plant.
      Don't you mean, cheese processing plant? ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      Is an automated drilling/mining/processing plant. There are mineral deposits up there. If we could go up there and have the materials made on site, so we only needed to set up the base, a long term moon base would be fairly cheap.

      Actually, we don't know if there are mineral deposits on the Moon, as it hasn't been explored in enough detail to even make a reasonable guess. Anything below the top couple of centimeters is pretty much a complete mystery. On top of which, it is not clear the Moon has gone thro

      • by ByOhTek (1181381)
        Really [nasa.gov]? I'm glad there are people who actually looked rather than just answered [nasa.gov]. Aren't you [britannica.com]?

        Beyond that a quick set google searches suggests you can find the following redily on the moon, out of various mineral forms:
        Sulfur
        Iron
        Oxygen
        Potassium
        Aluminum
        Hydrogen
        Calcium
        • by ByOhTek (1181381)
          Firefox didn't copy the second link properly, it should have been this [neiu.edu] rather than a repeate of the first.
        • Yes, really. There are also people who have spent time actually studying the issue rather than skimming relevant webpages and handwaving.

          "Common elements" are not the same thing as "useable ore deposits". If you do a similiar long distance scan of the Earth's surface, you'll find lots of silicates, lots of iron, and quite a bit of aluminum - but 99.9999999% of it is either of too low a concentration to be recoverable without a massive effort, and a similiar percentage is locked up in chemical form
          • by ByOhTek (1181381)
            Yes, and using web pages on a web forum as an example doesn't preclude me from being someone who's put effort into studing this matter, does it?

            One of the reasons many forms of extraction of infeasible is energy cost. Simply put, that's less of an issue on the moon. Reliable solar energy, no cost for land usage, less atmospheric ware on solar panels. Energy can become quite cheap.
            • Why do you have such a bug about proving your post that has nothing to do with the article.
              To stay off topic, just becuase energy is less of an issue doesn't mean it's not an issue. Sure it might be better but our ability to hardness solar energy isn't that efficient yet. Some processes take gas furnaes some take electric furnaces. A lot take water for colling purposes. Just becuase it's space doesn't mean that getting rid of excess heat is easy esp with no atmosphere. So that raises ew quetsions all our pr
              • Words I spelled wrong in my previous post (Not that I care and may not be inclusive)
                furnaes
                new
                quetsions
                involes
                gravity
                the
                Aluminum
              • by ByOhTek (1181381)
                can't-be-dones are one of my biggest pet-peeves. That's why I went a lot longer than I should have.

                Each of myself and the other individual have a lot of information on the subject. One of us is missing things. I think it is him, he thinks it is me.

                In the end, the world progresses because the can-be-done's push on. Anyway, I didn't say it would all be doable tomorrow or was doable today, I said more research should be put into the subject, as it appears that we aren't that far off.
            • Yes, and using web pages on a web forum as an example doesn't preclude me from being someone who's put effort into studing this matter, does it?

              No, the amount of knowledge (more correctly the lack of knowledge) you have displayed on the issues, combined with the routine substitution of handwaving and ungrounded assumptions for for facts precludes you from being someone who has studied the matter.

              One of the reasons many forms of extraction of infeasible is energy cost. Simply put, that's les

    • You mean like a Self Replicating Lunar Factory [islandone.org]?
    • by FleaPlus (6935)
      Is an automated drilling/mining/processing plant. There are mineral deposits up there. If we could go up there and have the materials made on site, so we only needed to set up the base, a long term moon base would be fairly cheap.

      NASA's Centennial Challenges is actually funding a competition to extract oxygen from mock-regolith later this year:

      http://centennialchallenges.nasa.gov/cc_challenges.htm#moonrox [nasa.gov]

      The MoonROx Challenge is designed to promote the development of processes to extract oxygen from lunar regolith on the scale of a pilot plant. These processes have the potential to contribute significantly to the Vision for Space Exploration and space exploration operations.

      The MoonROx Challenge is a "first to demonstrate" competition. The team whose hardware can quickly extract breathable oxygen from a supply of lunar regolith simulant using a steady-state process will win the competition.

    • Is an automated drilling/mining/processing plant. There are mineral deposits up there.

      The minerals might be useful locally but helium3 is what would really be harvested from a lunar mining colony. [space.com] Solar power would be plentiful for fueling the base, but the Helium3 would pay for it, by being a new fuel source. Profitable is better than cheap.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    NASA has eyes on Sun and Mercury? Why does NASA care about the MySQL purchase? I can see the interest in mercury though - breaking open a thermometer and trying to catch the mercury is fun. As for the moon... I take it this time there's going to be a mini series filmed on some secret Hollywood set. Don't forget to position the prop rocks properly this time -- remember, showing the prop number makes the conspiracy theorists theorize conspiracies. ;)
  • Is what they need :-)

    Doh, two words.

    Land Rover Discovery.

    Doh, three words.
  • Go Team Canada! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by saskboy (600063) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @01:33PM (#22068698) Homepage Journal
    The Shuttle has our first arm, the ISS our second, and the Moon will have Canada's Buggy. Heaven knows we know how to make vehicles for extreme temperatures...
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @01:36PM (#22068732) Homepage Journal
    Also a really good sound system for blasting the theme to "2001" at all hours of the night.
  • by Big_Monkey_Bird (620459) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @01:37PM (#22068744)
    Fine then. I'm going build my own lunar lander. With blackjack, and hookers. In fact, forget the lunar lander and the blackjack. Ah, screw the whole thing.
    • by syousef (465911)
      Fine then. I'm going build my own lunar lander. With blackjack, and hookers. In fact, forget the lunar lander and the blackjack. Ah, screw the whole thing. ...just make sure there are no sharp bits. I was going to add "...and I want a pony" but after seeing your post that somehow feels vaguely dirty.
  • You've GOT it, TOYOTA!

    (Or, just get a Honda 3-wheeler or other model)
  • by jellomizer (103300) * on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @01:45PM (#22068852)
    Can you name the Moonbuggie with four wheel drive,
    Smells like a steak, and seats thirty five?
    Lunorero! Lunorero!
    Well, it goes real slow with the hammer down
    It's the country-fried Moonbuggie endorsed by a clown
    Lunorero! Lunorero!
    Hey, hey!
    Twelve yards long, two lanes wide,
    Sixty five tons of American pride!
    Lunorero! Lunorero!
    Top of the line in Lunar works,
    Unexplained fires are for the managers of the dorks!
    Lunorero! Lunorero!
    She blinds everybody with her super high beams
    She's a rock-crusin', sand-spuin' drivin' machine
    Lunorero! Lunorero! Lunorero!
    Whoa, Lunorero! Whoa!
  • For a second there, I think we're going to the moon and setting up camp there for a week via huge aerospace contracts. Next thing I know we're racing dunebuggies around Alabama with college and high school kids.
  • The lander should be a Bob's big boy.
  • ... by "next" lunar lander? Everyone knows that the last missions were Hollywood productions on a sound stage.
  • That's not what the latest Hummer [jalopnik.com] was for?
  • Solid Lunar Lander? I didn't RTFA, but what do they mean by that? I never heard of a liquid lunar lander )or gaseous), or do they mean using solid fuel rockets for landing and takeoff? That seems silly since you want controllable thrust, and luna hasn't got enough gravity that you'd need the SRB's like on the shuttle.
    • by LMacG (118321)
      The linked article's headline is almost identical, but says "reliable" instead of "solid." But don't bother, it's just Network World trolling for page hits, AGAIN.
    • do they mean using solid fuel rockets for landing and takeoff? That seems silly since you want controllable thrust

      Actually, with a bit of cleverness - you only need throttleability for a fairly small portion of the powered phase of landing.

      One method is using a 'crasher stage' - where you use a large non-throttleable engine to remove nearly all of your velocity at once, discard it, and then complete the landing using a fairly small throttleable engine. NASA's Surveyor landers used this method, as

  • ... you'd need seating for four, and bubble domes so they can see everything... I think I can do this for $82,000. [wikipedia.org]
  • What I want (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Nimey (114278)
    Screw moonbuggies and a lunar lander, cool as they are.

    I want BOOBIES!
  • Haven't seen any support for this latest moon program in the media. None of the candidates ever brought it up except for maybe Hillary. Obama definitely wants to kill it. There have been moon programs for at least 20 years.
  • Finally, it looks like NASA is investing serious resources into researching sweet jumps in low gravity.
  • With the reduced lunar gravity, will big jumps be possible?
  • I'd like a fast moon buggy too. Where do I get in line?
  • He's going to write a small OS for the Altair project. After that, he'll sell an OS he wrote (bought) to Boeing or Lockheed Martin (who seem to think that their money is in launch vehicle systems, but really in launch vehicle systems *software*). The proceeds of the sale will lead to him creating the world's largest space software company. Wonder if he'll bring Ballmer on board. How hard is it to throw a chair in space?
  • NASA / NASCAR you think the similarities are a coincidnece? I think not!
    Gotta find a way to pay for this mission, so top fuel racing on the moon is it!
  • and the side mirror. To see what's following you from low moon orbit.
  • Airlocks? (Score:4, Informative)

    by jbeaupre (752124) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @03:16PM (#22070102)
    Dust is going to be a big problem for these designs that's going to require a different idea about airlocks. Aerospace engineers have gotten pretty good at designing equipment that operates in vacuum, extreme temperatures, etc. But they spend a lot of effort to keep them clean. You can try to seal all the systems, probably with good success. But astronauts are going to bring a lot of dust indoors every time they reenter. Apollo astronauts were filthy at the end of missions.

    The designs I've seen for this don't really use airlocks . Suits similar to Soviet designs dock with the capsule or buggy. Astronauts climb in from the back and undock to work outside. Samples and equipment go through a smaller lock. Makes for some funky looking craft.http://blog.wired.com/cars/2007/09/rvs-in-space-lu.html [wired.com]
  • They solved the design problem in 1972. I think it will end up looking like this. [ufoseries.com]
  • by IBBoard (1128019) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @03:25PM (#22070196) Homepage
    So NASA want fast buggies? On the moon? Where the gravity is low? And no-one pointed out the potential problem of astronauts flooring it, leaping over a big ridge and crashing it worse than the Mars lander?

    Oh well, at least the UK gets to share its space funding with the rest of Europe, so we don't spend only our money hot-rodding cars for low gravity :)
    • Catching air on the moon? SWEET. It may be worth losing the buggy just for the photo op.

      They probably just want to make donuts on the moon. I would. THAT would be cool.
  • Purple neon lights, unnecessary wings, fuzzy seats, hydraulic bouncers on two of the landing legs and "go faster" stickers!

    And paint on some flames (over the lime green to solar orange gradient base coat) and get one of those "La Cucaracha" horns. You can't hear it in a vacuum, but it's the principle of the thing.

    Oh, and a wicked sound system so our Mooninite homeboys can experience our righteous mammalian thump-thump. Well, I guess the whole vacuum thing figures in again, but still...
  • Then a science vessel and work my way up to siege tanks and battlecruisers. My only question is this: is the Moon populated by Protoss or Zerg?
  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @03:57PM (#22070646) Journal
    Gosh! I'm glad they finally got that spec'ed right. The fluid landers were just piss down the drain.
  • I would first focus on putting up a station on the poles and get a perm position going. From there, I would simply use a modified Armadillo (as in Carmack's, not bruce willis) to move around on the moon. The last thing that you want is to move along at the speed of wheels. You want to be able to jump all over. But putting up the station and getting automated manufacturing going would seem to be more important.
  • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @05:02PM (#22071366)
    Anyone know why NASA is specifying human-powered moon buggy designs?
  • by moosesocks (264553) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @05:02PM (#22071368) Homepage
    Since the return to the moon is in effect supposed to be a stepping stone to Mars, why not send out proposals for a Mars lander that could easily be scaled back for a moon landing?

    Then, plan to keep the astronauts up there for at least a month so that we can start planning for long-term habitation.

    Am I crazy to be suggesting this? It would certainly reduce redundancies, and free up funds and time to focus on the other issues we'd have with a Mars mission (ie. the intermediary vehicle that would take the lander from Earth's orbit to Mars or the Moon and back)

    Actually, come to think of it, I'm not seeing how a moon mission would be *that* much less difficult than a Mars mission, apart from the return journey.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The requirements for Mars are so different it's not worthwhile to try to reconcile them into a common system. There may be some common technology, but on the whole, it will be put together much differently.

      For one, Mars has an atmosphere. This is both an asset and a liability. It reduces the amount of fuel you need for entry and gives you a possible control mechanism, but it also creates heating and issues. Air buffeting over the spindly features of lunar-like lander would make it unstable and possibly b
    • A couple of things (Score:4, Insightful)

      by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:42PM (#22075798) Journal
      The first is that this not really just a stepping stone. W. and DOD are pushing this. The reason is that China has been building up their military at a rate not seen since WWII. In light of how China's conducted their anti-sat test, it was more a warning to us that we need to back off (there were other ways to test their "hit" without hitting a sat. Like it or not, But both China and US will be putting up military bases there. I am guessing that USA will do mostly lasers. With the solar, and recent deal with EEstor, it will give us the ability to hit sats.

      Second, even though mars is not really the same as the moon, they are trying to make this hardware work for both planets. For example, the original orion's last stage and the lander's primary called for using methane/LOX engines. The idea was that on mars would be easily able to generate methane and even O2. But the current orion went to using the J2 on the upper stage of the orion. It remains to be seen what the lander will use. But parts of the habitat, any rover/shuttle, and automated manufacturing will be made to work for both.

      I am guessing that by 2016, the private companies will already be on the moon, and gearing up for mars. The mars trip will probably be a 1 way mission that is funded by a couple of billionaires. They will expect the team to live their natural lives there, or return them after 5-10 years. The idea of sending a team for a couple of months or even 2 years makes NO sense what so ever.

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