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Moon Space NASA

NASA to Demonstrate Moon Rover 98

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the 0-to-60-in-never dept.
coondoggie writes "NASA will this week demonstrate its lunar robot rover equipped with a drill designed to find water and oxygen-rich soil on the moon. NASA said the engineering challenge of building such as drilling system was daunting because a robot rover designed for prospecting within lunar craters has to operate in continual darkness at extremely cold temperatures with little power. The moon has one-sixth the gravity of Earth, so a lightweight rover will have a difficult job resisting drilling forces and remaining stable.The project is just one demonstration of the collaboration NASA is utilizing to bring together its next moon shot. For example, Carnegie Mellon was responsible for the robot's design and testing, and the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology built the drilling system. NASA's Glenn Research Center contributed the rover's power management system. NASA's Ames Research Center built a system that navigates the rover in the dark. The Canadian Space Agency funded a Neptec camera that builds three-dimensional images of terrain using laser light, NASA said."
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NASA to Demonstrate Moon Rover

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:13AM (#22588988)
    is hopping over 2 troughs in rapid succession while shooting the moguls that immediately follow
  • Bring on the dynamite!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by boris111 (837756)
      I don't know about extracting H2, and O2, but since Regolith is a pain the ass for the astronauts I'm thinking a rover could be sent to blast away a nice work area for them to arrive and have a regolith free area to set up their moonbase. I'm no rocket scientist though.
      • Re:Drilling? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mapsjanhere (1130359) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @12:12PM (#22589794)
        And what your you using to blast with? I'm sorry, but your leaf blower doesn't work very efficiently at 10^-12 torr. You could use something similar to the ascend rockets they used on the lunar module (that set off the dust clouds that set of the "fake, fake" cries), but the regolith is several feet deep, so you need one hell of a blast there. You're actually better off to coat large areas with a very thin layer of binder, and keep the dust down that way.
        • by boris111 (837756)
          Oh yeah no oxygen... my bad. Hey Star Wars says things blow up in space with big fiery explosions that make a lot of noise... so I believe them.
        • Re:Drilling? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by timeOday (582209) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @01:45PM (#22590930)
          I don't think blast charges oxidize with the atmosphere do they? Doesn't seem like that would mix fast enough. Torpedoes don't seem to have any trouble. As for regolith, "Portable antitank weapons have become more powerful, more reliable, and more available worldwide since the early 1980s. Many of these weapons are capable of penetrating 20 to 40 inches of armor plate steel" (cite [state.nv.us]). For that matter, anything that gets all the way from the earth to the moon is going to arrive with plenty of momentum. Maybe they could just drop a DU rod out of the probe before initiating deceleration for the landing?
          • The problem with mechanical impacting is that that's how you got the dust in the first place, meteorite impacts. If you impact hard enough to leave a decent size crater you generate enough dust to cover the surface up again. As for your portable anti tank weapon, that's based on a hollow charge, it's exactly the wrong type of explosive. You want something that sets free a large amount of gas to push the regolith out of the way, not something that's build to concentrate all its energy in a very fast chunk
  • heh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:19AM (#22589070)
    so.. what are the odds of the robotic rover being hit by a very high speed mass impacting in an attempt to locate hydrogen fired from another NASA section?

    I can see it now... "mission controller! we did not find any hydrogen, but we picked up large amounts of refined titanium, gold and radioactive isotopes! aliens!"

    meanwhile in another room perplexed and gloomy tech monitor their screens in woe and confusion, whilst listening to the cheers next door...
    • by luder (923306)
      I just hope they're not giving two different names to the same mission.
    • by rbanffy (584143)
      Worst of all - the rover just discovered what appears to be an artifact left by aliens seconds before rover, artifact and surroundings are are vaporized by high speed impactor.

      That, for some odd reason, shares the same mission name with the now dead rover.
  • So the truth comes out! They are planning a rover mission, but just in case their math fails to match up and the rover ends up crashing on the moon, they will just say they were searching for hydrogen [slashdot.org].
  • Standardize? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stanistani (808333) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:22AM (#22589116) Homepage Journal
    I hope the folks who work on the various rovers get together periodically and exchange ideas -- a standard data bus, a secure common operating system, reuse of algorithms, joint testing of components... could save time, money, and mistakes.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      I hope the folks who work on the various rovers get together periodically and exchange ideas -- a standard data bus, a secure common operating system, reuse of algorithms, joint testing of components... could save time, money, and mistakes.

      Must... resist... making... lame microsoft joke...

      AAAGH! THE AGONY!
      • On Soviet Mars, Red Screen of Death halts You?

        Believe me, the Microsoft OSes weren't on my short list. I was just envisioning having a couple of RTOS and OS choices with common goals, a well-administered stable version for each, with drivers and the like controlled pretty strictly.
      • by Kyont (145761)

        a secure common operating system
        Ah... so that's what SCO stands for...

        (Yes, I'm kidding)
    • by Kyont (145761)
      To be fair...

      NASA also notes that some, all or none of these features may be selected to be in the design of a rover that eventually goes to the moon.
      That narrows it down, don't you think? Well, I'm off to explain to my boss that some, all or none of my current project may, will or might not be done either before, during or after the deadline.
      • So much for my proposal to eliminate the need for any further Moon missions by destroying the Moon.
    • by domj00 (544223)
      That is indeed the case on the autonomy side (ie, follow the mission plan without hitting anything). Most of the ideas and code have evolved through Life in the Atacama a few years ago. In many cases they were developed (either in the design or programming sense) earlier and really hit their stride on that project.
      • Oh, yes! Zoe, the autonomous rover from NASA Ames Research Center. That's encouraging to know that work was the base for new rover code. Exactly what I'd hoped.
  • drill problems (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jodka (520060) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:33AM (#22589260)
    quote:

    ...so a lightweight rover will have a difficult job resisting drilling forces and remaining stable

    I assume here they are referring to either: 1) The problem of the drill staying still and the rover rotating around it. 2) Downward force on the drill lifting the rover up.

    With conventional earth-bound drilling these problem are solved in the case of 1: by using multiple counter-rotating bits and in the case of 2: Auger bits, which both remove material and bite into the material at the bottom of the hole with a screw, pulling themselves downward without requiring downward pressure on the drill.

    I would certainly think that counter-rotating heads would work on the moon, though use of an auger might depend on the material properties of moon rock.

    • by zkiwi34 (974563)
      Good points, however I think the issue that they are talking about is starting the drilling, not problems in drilling. Mind you, given the fact that I've met junior/senior EE majors from a good US college (that will remain nameless) who cannot tell a resistor from a diode, maybe they don't know what the issues are, or how to go about solving them. The motto seems to be all too much like, if we can graduate you without you having to do anything other than play with simulators (that are presumed perfect) the
    • by Jodka (520060)
      In followup to my own post because I did not think of it earlier:

      with respect to 2) Downward force on the drill lifting the rover up:

      Control of the drill feed rate and pressure would also take care of that; If the rover is lifting, reduce force and feedrate of the drill.

    • Two problems, the regolith is about the the consistency of flour (somewhere in the 50 micron particle size). So you basically are trying to drill a hole in a flour silo, without being able to us the walls for support. It's also highly abrasive, and you're drilling dry, with the bits at rather low temperature (enhancing the brittleness of the drill bit).
    • by rhennigan (833589)
      Bruce Willis? Is that you?
    • Remember this is a sampling drill - not a hole making drill. Thus counter rotating bits and auger bits are Right Out.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We're whalers on the moon,
    We carry a harpoon.

    But there ain't no whales,
    So we tell tall tales,
    and sing our whaling tune.
  • Proof! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Itninja (937614) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:45AM (#22589418) Homepage
    From TA: "NASA says it wants to put people on the moon by 2020."

    Gotcha! They just admitted that they have never put people on the more before. That whole 1969 bit was just a hoax.
    • They were there, theres a picture of a boot print on the concrete lunar surface next to the lander to prove it. And, Their second choice of a drill was to include just the boot Neil Armstrong used so they could stomp their way below the lunar surface.
  • Sigh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sunking2 (521698)

    The moon has one-sixth the gravity of Earth, so a lightweight rover will have a difficult job resisting drilling forces and remaining stable.

    I really tire of all the sensationlism that needs to be tied to everything. Give me a break. This problem has been solved so many times it's not even funnny. How many helicopters which essentially have 0 gravitational force to keep them straight do you see spinning out of control? And that's a complex solution. I think ships anchors are a pretty old tech that's bee

    • Re:Sigh... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @01:08PM (#22590434) Homepage

      The moon has one-sixth the gravity of Earth, so a lightweight rover will have a difficult job resisting drilling forces and remaining stable.

      I really tire of all the sensationlism that needs to be tied to everything. Give me a break. This problem has been solved so many times it's not even funnny.

      Right - then why don't you provide some solutions that work rather than handwaving nonsense?
       
       

      How many helicopters which essentially have 0 gravitational force to keep them straight do you see spinning out of control?

      Helicopters provide counter revolution forces in a wide variety of way, precisely none of which will work on the rover.
       
       

      I think ships anchors are a pretty old tech that's been around a while. How about firing a few pilons into the ground for anchorage.

      For the first, anchors are heavy - and spare weight allowance isn't something the rover has. For the second, how do drive the pitons without encountering the very problems you are driving the pitons to resist?
       
      It isn't nearly as simply as you make out.
       
       

      A group of 5th graders can solve this.

      Everything is easy when all you have to do is handwave. It gets rather harder when you actually have to do it.
      • by sunking2 (521698)

        Indeed, helicopters provide counter revolution in many ways. All of which don't rely on an atmosphere to work. In the end its all just angular velocity you need to counter, and you certainly could do it on a rover. The point of bringing up a helicopter is simply that if its been solved for an extremely complex system like that, then the moon in comparison is pretty simplistic. It can all be figured out using freshman physics.

        Anchors are only heavy because they need to travel 'far' in a decent amount of tim

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          It can all be figured out using freshman physics.

          Solving it in freshman physics has very little to do with solving it with real world hardware that can built within the constraints of time, mass, volume, budget, reliability, etc...

          Anchors are only heavy because they need to travel 'far' in a decent amount of time. The weight isn't there to help stop the boat, it's there to get to the bottom before you drift away from where you want to be.

          ROTFLMAO. You actually believe this?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rickb928 (945187)
      Absolutely...

      Since helicopters use atmospheric resistance to maneuver, those tactics don't apply to the Moon, with virtually no atmosphere to use for the tail rotor to counteract tourque. Bzzzt! Wrong answer!

      Firing pitons into the Moon to hold the rover down for drilling makes sense except for two points:

      - Drilling operations will be limited by how many pitons you carry, and how the firing mechanism works. This also adds weight and defeats the 'lightweight' requirement.

      - the mechanism to fire a piton, hold
      • by sunking2 (521698)

        The point was simply that the article makes this sound like it's some monumental feat to overcome. It simply isn't. It's been solved many times in many different scenarios. A reduced gravity does not affect the physics of negating angular velocity. Sorry, i'm long past the point where the potential to grow a crystal in space excites me. And this isn't exactly the kind of problem that makes me marvel either.

        Getting there is a marvel, landing is a marvel. I'll even give them the fact that they can drive this

        • by rickb928 (945187)
          Well, then, damn! I oughta get a bunch of guys together and wrangle up a rover of our own.

          The frame and propulsion doesn't worry me. Guts out of any cheap digital camera, with a USB bus for everything, and just a hardened RS6000 would do. I know a guy who could mod an OS for us. He'll learn all the lessons from the Mars rover project, let me tell you.

          Now all we need is a 65,000 liter Coke bottle.

          Seriously, we aren't that far from DIY exploration, are we? The hardest part seems the radio back to Earth.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I think ships anchors are a pretty old tech that's been around a while. How about firing a few pilons into the ground for anchorage. A group of 5th graders can solve this.

      I'm not sure 5th graders are going to be heavy enough. Besides, they'll probably bitch and moan all the way to the moon.
      • by sunking2 (521698)
        Depends on the size of the group. Though I have to admit it is a long time to hear 'are we there yet'.
  • to operate in continual darkness at extremely cold temperatures with little power.
    Just put it to sleep, and wait for the next sunrise.
    Or am I missing something?
    • by calebt3 (1098475)
      The sun doesn't shine at the bottom of some of the deepest craters.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by doti (966971)
        detach the solar panel, leave it at the top, and use a cable?
        maybe too many extra complications.
        • by jkua (1159581)
          First, the proposed mission is not spec'd to drive down into the crater, which is likely to have very steep walls covered in loose soil. That descent would be very risky, and so I believe the current mission concept is to land inside the crater, which is permanently dark and cold at about -170 C. Even if you could drive down into the crater, the issues of the mass and reliability of a tether on the order of 10km (Shackleton is 19km wide and 1km deep) are definite problems.
          • by doti (966971)
            19km wide? You must be kidding me.
            I once saw the craters on an old telescope of a friend, and they looked pretty small.
            • by jkua (1159581)
              Nope, according to Wiki [wikipedia.org], about half a million craters on the moon have diameters of 1km or more, with the largest being 2240km across.
              • by doti (966971)
                I rather believe in my own eyes than in a vandalized web site.

                I'm telling you: I saw them! They were about this (/makes a round shape with fingers/) big.
  • Drilling in a low-grav environment? Maybe NASA should call in the assistance of a maverick well driller and his crew of wacky misfits to help get the job done.
  • It seems to be a NASA ritual to get ordered to do one thing & focus on the crust instead. So they're putting all this effort into hypothetical lunar science experiments & drawing pictures of manned habitats while ignoring the minor expensive detail of the rocket to get there. Haven't seen any progress on Ares V for years since they got ordered to put a number of basic science missions back on the budget.

  • equipped with a drill designed to find water and oxygen-rich soil on the moon
    Just so long as they don't use it to mine for deuterium ore, I'm happy.
  • Why don't they just send a satellite equipped with a CARABAS radar into orbit around the moon?
    There is no atmosphere to worry about so you can use a extremely low orbit.
    • I agree. Isn't there an easier solution?
      I was thinking that you could set off small explosions in the regolith and observe the spectrum emitted to determine the elements present. No need for wheels, drills, or landing systems. Just a few hundred high explosive projectiles, a telescope with a spectrometer on an orbiter and three hundred grad students back on earth to crunch the data.

      Well... Those NASA people are pretty smart. I'm sure there's a reason they're going this route.
      • by jkua (1159581)
        So we've already done one impact test with Lunar Prospector and plan to do a higher energy test with LCROSS and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (in fact there's a ./ article a bit further down the front page right now). But the question of water on the moon has been an open one for quite some time, with no definitive answer. The theory is that ice from cometary impacts will have collected at the lunar poles which are permanently dark and cold. The Clementine mission's radar data suggested pockets of ice an
  • Two /. headlines on the same page:

    "NASA Plans to Smash Spacecraft into the Moon"
    "NASA to Demonstrate Moon Rover"

    You know guys, smashing things is not the best way to demonstrate them.

  • that's an old Andy Williams song, isn't it?
  • American, can, will, and must blow up the moon! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHpX5aa5Lz4 [youtube.com]
  • The hot stays hot (Score:2, Interesting)

    by B Nesson (1153483)
    I'll grant that it's very dark on the dark side of the moon, but without the convection an atmosphere provides, how cold will it actually be? The only heat loss will be through radiation and what (I imagine little) conduction there is between the rover and the ground. If a vacuum keeps my coffee in my thermos hot, how will it be any different on the moon?

    IANARS, but I would think a bigger problem would be keeping the thing from overheating.
  • 1/31/07 - Never Forget!



    For the humor-impaired: Mooninites [wikipedia.org]. josh42042, props for the Mr. Show ref.

  • I made a slight reading error on the title and now I cannot get rid of the earworm.

    ..moon river, wider than a mile..

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