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NASA Moon Space Transportation Technology

NASA's New Lunar Rover, Now Testing In Arizona 59

Posted by timothy
from the detatchable-p-suit dept.
MarkWhittington writes "NASA has unveiled a new prototype lunar rover, called the Chariot, a production version of which is hoped to be operational on the lunar surface by 2019. NASA is now testing the Chariot lunar rover in Arizona, on terrain that resembles the lunar surface." Perhaps Arizona's an even closer match to the moon's surface than is Texas, or Moses Lake, WA where NASA was testing the last time we mentioned Chariot. (Here's a bit of video from the Texas round.)
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NASA's New Lunar Rover, Now Testing In Arizona

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  • desert rover [impactlab.com]
  • Actually (Score:5, Informative)

    by djupedal (584558) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @08:13PM (#25513261)
    Perhaps Arizona's an even closer match to the moon's surface than is Texas, or Moses Lake, WA

    It puts them closer to the University(s) that have been taking over many of the projects. For NASA, it is a budget thing - for the Unis', it works as a recruitment tool when the public is looking, and play-time when not...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hawthorne01 (575586)

      IIRC, NASA used the terrain around Ajo [wikipedia.org] as testing grounds for the first lunar missions.

      I've been to Ajo, I spent a week there one day. It's a perfect location for simulate the moon; rugged, desolate, and devoid of any signs of human habitation.

      • Why is the lack of human habitation required for testing a buggy? :P

        • by ctetc007 (875050)
          Well, I don't think you get a realistic test driving it on the streets of, say, LA, Houston, or any city/town.

          My guess is that we just haven't had much development in these areas that closely resemble the moonscape. It's not that they were looking for uninhabited places (or maybe they were), but that nobody really wanted to live in these areas (desert, etc).
          • by tomhudson (43916)

            Why is the lack of human habitation required for testing a buggy? :P

            Well, I don't think you get a realistic test driving it on the streets of, say, LA, Houston, or any city/town.

            They can always test it at the White House. There hasn't been signs of human life there for months.

            Now if they REALLY want to test it somewhere REALLY desolate, they can try John McCain's campaign. Sarah Palin's doing a good job sucking the life force out of it.

      • Re:Actually (Score:4, Funny)

        by Arivia (783328) <arivia@gmail.com> on Saturday October 25, 2008 @10:30PM (#25514071) Journal

        If you spent a week there one day, you may want to see a doctor.

      • Realistically, are we ever going to see this thing in action? The current polls and prediction markets suggest that Obama is going to crush McCain like an insect- and some kind of soft, squishy insect, not a hard one, like a beetle- on election day. Obama has previously said that he's willing to delay funding the Constellation program of manned spacecraft to fund his education initiatives. I think he may have backed away from this, but at any rate, I think it suggests that manned space exploration is not hi
        • The object in the 60's wasn't I suspect to put a man on the moon, but to gain control of space. I do not understand otherwise why it is so difficult to repeat what was done 2 generations ago.

          You also had a population then that believed in creating science rather than it being someone else's problem. Today, you are much better off being a lawyer or PR consultant or something and just buying it. This is probably true for for many OECD countries. Science is not cool. (Evolution vs creationism, yada, yada yada.
      • by tyrione (134248)

        IIRC, NASA used the terrain around Ajo [wikipedia.org] as testing grounds for the first lunar missions.

        I've been to Ajo, I spent a week there one day. It's a perfect location for simulate the moon; rugged, desolate, and devoid of any signs of human habitation.

        That's one long day.

  • One concern... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rarel (697734) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @08:16PM (#25513285) Homepage
    It's all cool and dandy, but from TFA:

    "One of the more unusual innovations is a pair of slip-on space suits attached to the back of the pressurized cabin. Rather than taking up room with a full-size airlock, a "plainclothes" astronaut simply slides into an empty suit, pulls a lever to close the hatch and detach, and walks away. The process can then be done in reverse to re-enter the cabin."

    What about the dust? Everything I've read about lunar mission states lunar dust is super powdery and could be a real bitch in a pressurized environment...

    (I know, with all the PHDs over at NASA they certainly thought of that... I'm certainly interested in how they plan to control that)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mcbutterbuns (1005301)

      I'm certainly interested in how they plan to control that)

      Why with a little help from our friends B & D:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DustBuster [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      It's all cool and dandy, but from TFA:

      "One of the more unusual innovations is a pair of slip-on space suits attached to the back of the pressurized cabin. Rather than taking up room with a full-size airlock, a "plainclothes" astronaut simply slides into an empty suit, pulls a lever to close the hatch and detach, and walks away. The process can then be done in reverse to re-enter the cabin."

      What about the dust? Everything I've read about lunar mission states lunar dust is super powdery and could be a real bitch in a pressurized environment...

      This way is actually much better. During the apollo missions the dust came into the LM with the suits. If the suits actually stay outside the inside of the rover will be very clean. The suits will need maintenance but this could be done outside in vacuum.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by ctetc007 (875050)
        Actually, it will just reduce the dust problem by about half (maybe more, depending on how the suits are docked). The back half of the suit (backpack, etc) still enters the cabin before they doff their suits.

        So while half to most of the dust problem has been eliminated, they are looking at things like static electricity to *almost* eliminate the rest of the dust. (Wish I had official sources, most of this info I learned from going to lectures as a JSC co-op).
    • Re:One concern... (Score:4, Informative)

      by wegstar (888789) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @09:01PM (#25513507)
      From the video here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/10/081023-new-lunar-rover.html [nationalgeographic.com] The suits are attached the outside, and astronauts simply slip into the suits from the cabin. This quite ingenious design avoids introducing any speck dust into the cabin.
      • by rarel (697734)
        Oh ok, I guess I had misunderstood, I hadn't realized the suits themselves actually stayed outside... Nice workaround.

        Thanks!
      • by khallow (566160)
        It doesn't "avoid" lunar dust, it reduces the amount that gets in. Very nice solution for doing so. Means they probably can also reduce the amount of prep time for an EVA ("extra-vehicular activity" or doing stuff in a space suit) which is another serious restraint on astronaut activity.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        that is exactly how suits are handled inside of top notch isolation rooms. This is the exact same concept.
    • Wow! Just like this [purrsia.com]. Actually, they could do like they do in some Chinese restaurants: Layers of plastic sheets. All the astronauts would have to do is peel off the dirty layer, and they're good to go. Or they could use a lint brush. Any lunar dust sticking to the seals would be doing so through static. An adhesive roller could easily pull the dust off the seal.
  • Is that going up with the astronauts or sent in a separate launch?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by cohensh (1358679)

      Is that going up with the astronauts or sent in a separate launch?

      The astronauts will go up on an Ares I rocket. The equipment for a moon landing, this included, as well as the Earth Departure Stage will go up in an Ares V. After they rendezvous in Earth orbit they will then go to the moon.

  • Stories like these (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Aerynvala (1109505)
    really make me regret my decision to not go to the Science and Math focused high school.
  • Will they find the mars rover there?

    • In Arizona? Or on the moon?
  • does it have GPS Nav?

    • CHARIOT does have GPS, in fact. Part of the point of these analog campaigns is to develop and refine specifications for what is and isn't needed. The consensus is that GPS is a very good thing. Remember that we are still about 10 years from launch. Within that time, work will be done on positioning systems. No, it will probably not look a lot like GPS in terms of implementation - but there will almost certainly be some sort of (near?) real-time positioning system. It's actively discussed.

      The other thi

  • by kimvette (919543) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @09:49PM (#25513781) Homepage Journal

    "NASA has unveiled a new prototype lunar rover, called the Chariot, a production version of which is hoped to be operational on the lunar surface by 2019. "

    Why does it take so long for we Americans to get anything accomplished nowadays? Didn't the Apollo missions take only seven years to get from conception to landing, including development of command modules, lunar rovers, lunar modules, and a fairly reliable multi-stage rocket engine system? Why is a new lunar rover going to take 11 years to go into production when technology is so much more advanced now and innovation is at a faster pace than ever?

    • by inKubus (199753)

      Okay, boss, this LTX-71 concealable mike is part of the same system that NASA used when they faked the Apollo Moon landings. They had the astronauts broadcast around the world from a sound stage at Norton Air Force Base in San Bernadino, California. So it worked for them, shouldn't give us too many problems.

    • by cohensh (1358679)

      Why is a new lunar rover going to take 11 years to go into production when technology is so much more advanced now and innovation is at a faster pace than ever?

      Well for one we're not going to land on the moon for at least another 11 years. I think it will probably be more like 15. The lunar rover isn't the slow part. The slow part is the lack of funding. Right now they have to fund both the shuttle program and development of Constellation. In 1965 the GDP was $712 Billion [nationmaster.com] with a NASA budget of a little more than $5 billion [wikipedia.org] or about 0.7% In 2007 the GDP was about $13.8 Trillion [cia.gov] with the NASA budget at about $17 billion, or about 0.12%. It's not the scientists an

      • by ctetc007 (875050)
        In addition to the funding problem, I've also seen examples of government mandated waste. A lot of the NASA contracts require that main contractor subcontract the work out to small disadvantaged businesses (SDBs). A lot of these SDBs are just middlemen getting a piece of the money.
        Ex: Everything that flies into space must be space-rated, including the pens, pencils, markers, etc. If they want to use a Sharpie, they can't just go out to Target and get it, they have to get it from one of these SDBs. Gues
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 25, 2008 @10:41PM (#25514147)

      first off, CHARIOT got to this point from nothing in 2 years. second, while you can say "we've been to the moon before" and be right, it's completely apples and oranges if you take even one small step beyond that.

      0. i'll stick this one on top even though it's really part of another answer: You Aren't Excited About It. honestly that's the biggest problem. think hard about why your first impulse was to shrug this project off as slow and unexciting after you've read the other answers. then think about what's actually happening. then, and i'm completely serious, get excited about it! it's really exciting stuff! but this is a chicken-and-egg situation.

      1. relative funding level. in this case, more money would actually help a *lot*. besides that, a lot of the money is going into rockets these days. the stuff the rockets are going to move around is sort of back-burner and shoestring (relatively speaking). unfortunately, all of this really needs to happen in parallel, because we don't want to get there and then have to figure out what we're going to do and how. Constellation is called an "architecture" for a reason. but the budget just doesn't support doing the necessary rocket stuff while adequately funding the basic conceptual experiments that give the rocket stuff raison d'etre. the analogs barely happened this year - in particular this one.

      2. the NASA of Apollo was a completely single-minded organization. almost everything is different now, and NASA does a lot of work - very important work - that is not related (directly) to "putting stuff on the moon." but there is also a sad story to tell, mostly related to the competition for funding between 4 mission directorates spread across a bunch of centers (and their political relationships). at this point i'm almost convinced that it would be impossible for any single person to know everything that NASA is doing *even conceptually*. and going back to the first sentence of this point... the entire country was fully behind Apollo. it seems like hardly anyone even notices Constellation.

      3. more complexity -> more testing. next time NASA astronauts are on the moon they're going to be doing a heck of a lot more than landing, grabbing a few rocks and going home. we're talking lunar infrastructure and long term experimentation, multi-day traverses, etc. this is orders of magnitude more difficult than Apollo, and from what i've heard/seen, Apollo people involved in the current effort would not hesitate to agree with what i'm saying here. the new rover is not going to be abandoned as junk after a few uses. this is a modular concept with a lot of intended uses.

      4. did i mention funding? seriously. this is not a "mythical man month" problem at this point. funding comes from congress. congress allocates funds according to the demands of constituencies. that's you.

      want this to look and feel more like Apollo did in its day? support it. especially politically, but even just talking about it and attempting to appreciate what's being done would help.

      -anonymous from flagstaff

      • Mod parent up.

        To your point 0, though: It would be a lot easier for the public to get excited about NASA work if NASA did a better job of presenting that work to the public. I know this has been said many times before, but that might be because it's a valid point. The problem as I see it is that the guys doing the work have bigger things to worry about than getting involved in marketing.
    • it is not just that. Last time, it was designed to simply show that we COULD land on the moon. Nothing more. More importantly, the saturn V design was actually based on saturn I, which was started in the 50's (something like 57 or 58). It actually took more than a decade to design and build.

      Now, we are looking at it taking longer due to congress stretching it out, but also, we are not JUST going to the moon. This is about putting a base there. The rover before was literally a slow go-cart. THIS is an elec
    • Why does it take so long for we Americans to get anything accomplished nowadays? Didn't the Apollo missions take only seven years to get from conception to landing, including development of command modules, lunar rovers, lunar modules, and a fairly reliable multi-stage rocket engine system?

      The answer to the latter question is actually "no"... (To the surprise of many.)

      Some key, early, dates in the Apollo program:

      • 1955 - Work starts on what will eventually become the F-1 engine.
      • 1958 - work starts on
  • The more I have seen of it, the more rigid and less agile it has appeared. From TFA, apparently the wheels currently do not even have independent suspension, much less active suspension or articulation.

    One step forward, two steps back?
  • Arizona? Hey, wasn't that where the original mission took place? [sadtrombone.com]

    Okay, with some more seriousness though (because I know it will come up), there are some pretty sound rebuttals to the U.S moon landing conspiracy. Here's some more info [wikipedia.org] on the theories and some possible reasoning

    One of my personal favorites is the claim that it could have never happened because the astronauts could have never survived the Van Allen belt. James Allen himself said this was silly. I remember hearing that the astronauts would h
  • Yes, I can remember standing outside a television shop in Harbour Square in Kirkcudbright, Scotland, watching Neil Armstrong [wikipedia.org] climb down the ladder. It was a different world then. Then, the United States was the richest nation in the world, and was engaged in a geopolitical struggle with Russia, primarily, and China, secondarily. Going to the moon was at least partly a triumphalist assertion of US economic and technical dominance - you could, and no-one else could. And, because going to the moon was effectiv

  • and other useless 60s phrases.

    Is NASA trying to do anything new or is it just re-living old glories? We did this already now get on with something new.

    I'm all for new science I am not for keeping a bunch of useless wanna bes in jobs on the public dollar.

    Mars is/was new. Sending the rovers was great. We need to send some more/better rovers. Which planet do we need to send rovers to next. IMHO, this is what NASA should be doing for the next 50 years, cheap rocket delivery of data gathering rovers.

    The shu

    • by travbrad (622986)
      Well a manned trip to mars is something that is going to take months to get there and back, and once there I'm sure we would stay for quite a long time. People have never really stayed on an isolated planetary body for such a long time. When we went to moon originally our longest stay was only about 3 days. I think there is certainly some value in testing out the concept a little closer to home (where you can abort mission/head home a lot easier if serious problems arise). I know people have stayed in s
      • by travbrad (622986)

        Oops I had it set to HTML mode, hopefully it's easier to read like this:

        Well a manned trip to mars is something that is going to take months to get there and back, and once there I'm sure we would stay for quite a long time. People have never really stayed on an isolated planetary body for such a long time. When we went to moon originally our longest stay was only about 3 days. I think there is certainly some value in testing out the concept a little closer to home (where you can abort mission/head home a l

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