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Moon Robotics Space Science News

Japan Plans Moon Base Built By Robots For Robots 253

Posted by Soulskill
from the ceding-the-moon-to-skynet dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Japanese space agency, JAXA, has plans to build a base on the Moon by 2020. Not for humans, but for robots — and built by robots, too. A panel authorized by Japan's prime minister has drawn up preliminary plans for how humanoid and rover robots will begin surveying the moon by 2015, and then begin construction of a base near the south pole of the moon. The robots and the base will run on solar power, with total costs about $2.2 billion USD, according to the panel chaired by Waseda University President Katsuhiko Shirai. 'As currently envisioned, the robots that will land on the lunar surface in 2015 will be 660-pound behemoths equipped with rolling tank-like treads, solar panels, seismographs, high-def cameras, and a smattering of scientific instruments. They'll also have human-like arms for collecting rock samples that will be returned to Earth via rocket.'"
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Japan Plans Moon Base Built By Robots For Robots

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  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @08:35AM (#32388402)
    Ya I'm not so optimistic about the trust worthiness of robots. This sounds to me like they are practically giving them the perfect rebel base, for when the robot rebellion comes.
    • by XnR'rn (793753)

      They were culturally indoctrinated for years for stuff like this (random link to random giant robot anime ommited). I am not surprised.

  • by Geraden (15689) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @08:37AM (#32388412) Homepage
    That's all good, until they start to hurl moon rocks at us, via a robot-built rail gun.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      That's not very far fetched. Moon rocks (regolth) contains a vast amount of He3, so the idea for building a robotic moon base is probably to send back minerals sooner or later.

      I doubt they will use a railgun for that purpose though. It needs too much energy and the propellant has to have specific physical attributes (has to be conductive?).

      I think they will opt for rockets, or something like that, though the railgun version would be admittedly much cooler.

      • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Saturday May 29, 2010 @09:42AM (#32388816) Homepage

        The grandparent was referring to "The moon is a harsh mistress" by Robert Heinlein. Worth a read, has held up very well despite it's age IMHO.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by wagnerrp (1305589)

        Moon rocks (regolth) contain a trace amount of He3

        Fixed that for you. The actual quantities are somewhere around 10 parts per billion.

      • That's not very far fetched. Moon rocks (regolth) contains a vast amount of He3, so the idea for building a robotic moon base is probably to send back minerals sooner or later.

        They had better seriously study the effect of large changes to the balance of mass between Earth and the Moon before they start doing some shit like that. If the moon ends up crashing into us OR drifting out in space, we're kinda fucked.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          large changes to the balance of mass between Earth and the Moon

          I sincerely hope your post was meant as a joke, but if not...

          Removing the top 10 km of the entire lunar surface represents around 10^16 tons of material.

          It also represents less than 2% of the total lunar mass.

          In other words "large changes" isn't even in the timezone of what we're talking about....

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by TroyM (956558)

        I keep hearing the He3 meme on Slashdot, but it sounds like just a far fetched attempt to make going to the moon financially worth while. I've read a lot about fusion attempts like ITER and the National Ignition Facility, but have yet to hear of anyone doing fusion using He3. A quick search of the web found this [bautforum.com], which says that He3 fusion will be much harder to achieve than fusion using Tritium or Deuterium. I think the main "advantage" of He3 fusion is that it would force us to go back to the moon

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Yergle143 (848772)

          Here's a handy link to the University of Wisconsin Fusion website dealing with the advantages/disadvantages of 3He as fuel
          http://fti.neep.wisc.edu/research/dhe3 [wisc.edu]
          A key feature -- even though it requires more energy, burning D+3He yields far less neutrons which would be an important advantage in a commercial reactor.
          Fusion is still a dream but there is a lot of action with "alternative configurations" so we should keep our fingers crossed.
          Me: if fusion can work, why stop at the moon? Betcha there is more 3He t

      • by durrr (1316311) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @10:22AM (#32389062)
        I'm starting to grow a bit tired of repeating this, but He3 is not the ultimate fusion fuel. It's only because it's an exotic off world resource that it gets all the hype.
        The benefits of He3 is that it's a aneutronic fuel, but it is definitely not the only such fuel, and considerin the shipping cost from the moon it is quite likely that He3 will have a hard time competing with other aneutronic fuels.
        Also, The temperature requried for He3 fusion is higher than for other fuels, so to actually get anything out of He3 fusion we're probably going to wait until second generation commercial fusion reactors pop up, the first ones that will feed our grid and establish the standards for fusion energy are unlikely to be He3 fusion reactors. Probably, we won't bother to ever use He3 fusion on earth, possibly we won't even bother to use it on the moon either.
      • by mikesd81 (518581)
        Couldn't they just put it in a conductive casing, much like a bullet goes in a casing, that could resist the re-entry into our atmosphere? Though that aim better be damn well perfect. Some Japanese citizen's house right next to the target could be in some danger...what a story that would be.
      • by (H)elix1 (231155) *

        I doubt they will use a railgun for that purpose though.

        Actually, if they can do a magnetic launch - perhaps more catapult than disposable sabot - that would be the way to send stuff back from the moon. No soft tissue parts to worry about, so the high G launch would not matter for mineral return. Solar energy is abundant, so creating a magnetic flux and even molding stone return structures would allow for much more frequent returns than using a fuel based return. Only looking at 2.4 km/s to escape the m

        • by ultranova (717540)

          Only looking at 2.4 km/s to escape the moon's gravity well, vs 11.2 km/s here on earth.

          Do you even need that much speed? After all, escape velocity is the speed needed to rise a mass to infinity from Earths/Moons surface, but Moon is within Earth's gravity well, just like Earth is within Moons gravity well, so you only need to rise the mass to the Lagrance point between them. Not only that, but as you near said point, the other body's gravity will cancel more and more of the other's, so moving between thes

  • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @08:38AM (#32388416)

    Should they bite your shiny metal ass?

  • Just $2.2 Billion? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday (582209) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @08:38AM (#32388418)
    Funding to the Space Shuttle has been around $5 billion per year for most of the last 30 years or so, and just keeping the program on operational life support was quoted at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_program [wikipedia.org]">$2.5 billion per year in early 2009.

    So if they deliver that entire program whose lifetime costs are only 2.2 Billion, I would be super impressed. In fact I would be impressed if we did it ourselves for 5 times that amount.

    • by sqrt(2) (786011) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @08:45AM (#32388464) Journal

      I would imagine that the prices drop dramatically once you don't have to worry about sending humans up, keeping them alive, and returning them safely.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by toppavak (943659)
        The largest gains would be in fuel costs and life support / living space. One way trips cost about half as much because you don't have to carry nearly as much fuel with you, plus without the need for oxygen, manual interfaces, displays, living spaces, seats, etc. the total mission weight can be drastically reduced.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Gorobei (127755)

          One-way trips only half as much? More like 1/100th.

          Apollo was on the edge of the possible: everything was maxed out to just get a few hundred pounds of rocks back to earth: huge 3 stage rocket, complex LEM + command module on the far end to hold energy costs down, piles of heat shielding, etc, for a difficult insertion back into the earth's orbit. Plus, as you say, all the junk needed to keep your automation systems (people) alive.

          • by Gorobei (127755) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @09:58AM (#32388906)

            On running the math a bit more: getting 1kg of payload mass to the moon with a soft landing is more like 1/1000 the cost of the round trip.

            So, $2B for an automated moon-base is pretty reasonable.

            Yes, I am a rocket scientist.

            • by Like2Byte (542992) <Like2Byte@yMONETahoo.com minus painter> on Saturday May 29, 2010 @10:38AM (#32389186) Homepage

              OK, here's a question for you then. I understand the moon's surface is made up of a bunch of tiny particulate - "dust" is you will. This dust, as I understand, got into everything during the Apollo Moon Missions. Now, for arguments sake, let's say Japan is able to install a moon base operated wholly (locally) by robots.

              What kinds of effects would the dust have upon the rails, pathways, gears and whatever other machinery is necessary to operate? I imagine that the gust would wear down the machinery and the robots might not have the ability to recognize wear and tear in such an environment - both on themselves and the machinery.

              • by Gorobei (127755) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @10:53AM (#32389276)

                Hey, I just do rockets. I can figure the cheapest way to get mass X to position Y with velocity Z.

                Dust? Ask the guys who build targets (I think they are called civil engineers or something)

              • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

                Seal the entire things in nice rubber "space-suits" (need not be pressurized obviously). Should be relatively trivial to make sure there are no exposed joints. Knowing Japan, these are all going to be humanoid anyways ;)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DerekLyons (302214)

        Yes, the prices drop - though less than you might think since not only are the robots themselves very expensive, so are the support/operations crew back on Earth. There's also considerable loss in the amount of science and work performed, so the difference in your 'bang for your buck' isn't all that great.

      • by khallow (566160) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @09:08AM (#32388614)

        I would imagine that the prices drop dramatically once you don't have to worry about sending humans up, keeping them alive, and returning them safely.

        The price drop occurs when you limit the scope of your mission to what two robots can do. Yes, a small, relatively simple robotic mission is cheaper than a complex manned mission, but it also does less. I will say that due to the small communication delay with Earth, the argument for a manned presence is far less compelling than it'll be for anything outside of the Earth-Moon system. You really can run complex operations mostly from Earth via teleoperations. That's not an option that works well on Mars, for example.

        • by fizzup (788545) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @10:16AM (#32389022)

          Yeah, you get less. But, man-oh-man, this seems like very high value. For comparison, here are some expenditures from groups that "can't afford" to go to the moon:

          It's such a small amount of money, I can't even believe it's true.

          • by DriedClexler (814907) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @12:45PM (#32390068)

            You think that's bad? Wait till you compare $2.2 billion to what some companies spend on advertising.

            Advertising Age estimated global measured advertising expenditure of $2.7bn in 2008, making Coca-Cola the world's #6 advertiser.

            Source. [adbrands.net]

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rubycodez (864176)

          it is a fallacy to continue to believe man can do more than a robot in near-earth space. Anything a human can do could have been by remote control. We've made the space program extremely wasteful by bothering to send humans. Some also believe the nonsense that humans in space help us toward the goal of colonizing space, but the truth is that the means we support humans in space now have nothing to do with how a self-sustaining colony would operate and in fact only degrade human health such that long term

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by khallow (566160)

            it is a fallacy to continue to believe man can do more than a robot in near-earth space. Anything a human can do could have been by remote control.

            No. Repairing complex instruments like the Hubble couldn't have been done by robot.

            We've made the space program extremely wasteful by bothering to send humans. Some also believe the nonsense that humans in space help us toward the goal of colonizing space, but the truth is that the means we support humans in space now have nothing to do with how a self-sustaining colony would operate and in fact only degrade human health such that long term existence in space would be impossible. Incredible the tens of billions of dollars we've burned to no purpose.

            There are various reasons the global space programs are wasteful. The presence of humans is not one of the reasons (unless you think the space programs which have humans should do less than they currently are). It remains that you can't understand how to live in space long term, if you don't have people doing things in space at some point. Finally, far more public money is squandered on other things such as wars, government r

            • by ultranova (717540)

              No. Repairing complex instruments like the Hubble couldn't have been done by robot.

              Of course it could have been done by a robot. In fact, fixing Hubble via a robot would had been easier than by a human, since Hubble is close enough to Earth that direct control is possible, and a robot doesn't need a bulky spacesuit, making it more dexterous.

              It remains that you can't understand how to live in space long term, if you don't have people doing things in space at some point.

              This is true. However, at the present

        • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @11:09AM (#32389394) Homepage

          I think it boils down to this: If we send humans to the Moon, they'll be remarkably like the humans Mark I we sent in 1969, while the most advanced robot we could have sent then was probably a digital watch. In 2050, if we still send humans for a round three they'll still be very similar to the 1969 humans, while if we send robots the next generation is likely to be much, much better than the last one. That means to a country running a space program, which hopefully have a little bit of foresight beyond this one mission, robots are still the way to go.

          Also, I think many people grossly exaggerate the "doing" part of science. We can design the mission down here, we can do the analysis down here, only very rarely does a scientist discover something to change his plans so on the fly that we couldn't tell the robot to go back and do it again tomorrow. If the robot lacks the tools, it's very likely a human would also lack the tools. The execution can be a fairly set of simple menial tasks like collect rocks, photograph every sample, put in processing chamber, wait for analysis - no great intelligence required. It's not like we're going to bring a huge lab of equipment we might use if and only if we found something interesting, humans or not.

    • So if they deliver that entire program whose lifetime costs are only 2.2 Billion, I would be super impressed. In fact I would be impressed if we did it ourselves for 5 times that amount.

      Robot labor is much cheaper than human labor ... unless those robots just happen to become members of the 'Robot Union' (not to be confused with Futurama's Robot Mafia [wikia.com]).

    • by khallow (566160)
      I imagine a lot of the cost will hide in the launch vehicle development program. JAXA doesn't strike me as being efficient enough to keep the cost down to private industry levels. But it's worth noting here that NASA typically runs with costs one to two orders of magnitude higher than similar private efforts. This is a combination of poor cost control, much greater project scope (I consider a focused project with limited goals superior on several levels to many of the do-everything projects like the ISS tha
      • by sznupi (719324)

        Launch vehicle for robots isn't particularly unique compared to...those used for everything else (in fact, "everything else" was always robots in case of JAXA, those we call "satellites" or "probes")

        • by khallow (566160)
          Unless JAXA plans to launch its stuff on supercheap SpaceX and Russian launchers that will come Real Soon Now (TM), they'll need a larger launch vehicle than they currently have.
          • by sznupi (719324) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @09:24AM (#32388724) Homepage

            What they currently have can put close to 20 ton payload into LEO; that should be comfortably sufficient for robotic "base", in few shots.

            (and it's in the league of SpaceX anyway; especially if Japan modifies (only) their heaviest launcher even more - it is already a modification of one which could put half the above payload into LEO)

            • by khallow (566160)

              What they currently have can put close to 20 ton payload into LEO; that should be comfortably sufficient for robotic "base", in few shots.

              Wikipedia claims [wikipedia.org] 15 tons. Still works for a robotic base, but I imagine they'd want to develop something that has a little larger payload (and maybe a little cheaper to operate).

    • by sznupi (719324)

      It's news to somebody how big of a money sink Shuttle is?... O_o

    • by Dragoniz3r (992309) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @09:30AM (#32388766)
      For a better comparison, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers:
      "The total cost of building, launching, landing and operating the rovers on the surface for the initial 90-Martian-day (sol) primary mission was US$820 million." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Exploration_Rover [wikipedia.org]
      The moon is a lot closer than Mars, so it doesn't seem entirely infeasible that they could do things significantly cheaper.
      • by Lloyd_Bryant (73136) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @02:09PM (#32390680)

        For a better comparison, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers:
        "The total cost of building, launching, landing and operating the rovers on the surface for the initial 90-Martian-day (sol) primary mission was US$820 million." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Exploration_Rover [wikipedia.org]
        The moon is a lot closer than Mars, so it doesn't seem entirely infeasible that they could do things significantly cheaper.

        Sorry, but that simply isn't true. For any space mission, a very large chunk of the total cost is the cost of getting the payload into Earth orbit. Once there, you can use high-efficiency low-energy transfer orbits to get to just about anywhere in the solar system, with very little in the way of energy expenditure compared to the trip up to orbit.

        The only real difference between having the Moon as a target as opposed to Mars is that the Mars mission will have a transit time measured in years, as opposed to days for the the Moon mission. For manned missions, those transit times are very significant (life support requirements), but for unmanned missions they don't add substantially to the cost.

        Costs do increase with distance (you have to pay ground controllers to monitor things during those longer transits), but the the difference isn't as great as you appear to believe.

  • Yay for building this base thanks to robots
    Nay for building it with humanoid robots

    My bet is that they'll get their funds by showing nice pictures of Asimo wielding a pickaxe but when it will come to design their robots will look more like vehicles than to Johnny 5
    • by sznupi (719324)

      Even from TFS, it's clear that at least large part of them will be "vehicles", just with arms added. Probably attached to a "torso" of vaguedly human proportions, with cameras of top.

      No, it isn't pointless, not for teleoperation - and Moon is just close enough to at least consider it with skilled human operators.

      • Re:Yay and nay (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @09:31AM (#32388774) Journal

        No, it isn't pointless, not for teleoperation - and Moon is just close enough to at least consider it with skilled human operators.

        And the longer they're up there for, the cheaper this becomes, in comparison to humans. Even ignoring the costs of getting food and oxygen there and maintaining life support systems, humans need to be brought back periodically. You need to rotate the crew, and sending a couple of people to the moon and back, even once per year, quickly gets expensive. With robots up there, you can put different experts in the control center every week for a comparatively tiny cost.

    • by cunniff (264218)

      Close - I bet they get their funds by broadcasting the humanoids as they wear / hold / use various retail items. For a fee.

  • All I can say is "Its about time." The human body is not designed to operate in space, indeed almost all biological systems on Earth that reside under nice "shields" including the magnetic field, the atmosphere, the ozone layer or even the oceans and they were not designed (evolved) to withstand the hazards of space. Ignoring minor topics like micrometeorites and the lack of atmosphere one has the ongoing problem of radiation exposure. Humans for example have 150-200 genes in the genome (~1%) whose purpose is to repair DNA damage. It does not do so reliably (so radiation causes gradual genome decay). And although one may develop "shields" this makes activities by humans in space inherently more expensive than using the right "organism" [1]. Anyone aware of robotics research knows that the Japanese are pushing this forward at a very rapid pace. Presumably much faster than one can push forward human "evolution" [2].

    Yes humans can engineer suits, habitats, shields, rovers, etc. which would allow humans to operate in such alien environments. But *why* do this? One has to remember that the "moon rocks" were brought back to Earth for analysis. We have to develop the remote robotics operations capabilities for exploration anyway [3]. Lets do it for the moon first.

    If people want to go places to say "I have been there", then fine let them pay for it (as private citizens or organizations) -- just don't expect all the rest of us to pay for your expensive vacation. The robotic development of the moon could serve as a prelude for human colonies there (to preserve humanity from terrestrial impacts) or taking vacations there. The moon is close enough that round trip radio can be used to control or reprogram robots in the event of complex/unforseen situations (remember we reprogrammed the Galileo mission when it proved necessary). The "nightmare" scenario of robots evolving into autonomous entities (a new robotic species) only arises when one is dealing with situations where remote control and/or reprogramming are not possible and one has designed the robots both self-reproduction and intelligence enhancement capabilities -- and I think we are still quite some distance from those achievements.

    1. References to using a hammer as a screwdriver apply when using humans in space. Astronauts require additional tools and training to work in space. Instead design the systems to be easily maintained and repaired by robots in space.
    2. Ideally if one wanted humans to live in space one would use genetic engineering to produce humans which were radiation tolerant. This not only has benefits from a space exploration standpoint -- such humans would likely have reduced cancer rates as well. But such developments are at least a generation away.
    3. I have yet to see a single proposal for a single human "submarine" or a human colony to explore the oceans of Europa to search for life or provide a humanity "safe room".

    • by khallow (566160)
      There are several things to note here. First, humans are the most advanced, intelligent, and flexible robot we have. They're also pretty cheap to make and replace (on the order of ten million dollars currently). There's also a vast Earth-side infrastructure based around the human. Just because the human isn't perfectly adapted to a space environment, doesn't mean that it isn't well suited to a variety of operations in space.

      Having said that, the Moon is an ideal place to develop space robotics. There's a
      • by cynyr (703126)
        the cost is good, but look at the leadtime, and it's 10mil per, get some general probe onto a robotic assembly line, and i bet the cost per unit is waaaay under that at 30mil units.
        • by khallow (566160)

          the cost is good, but look at the leadtime, and it's 10mil per, get some general probe onto a robotic assembly line, and i bet the cost per unit is waaaay under that at 30mil units.

          Almost all of that overhead is paid whether or not we put people into space. And globally we're generating something like 120-150 million new people each year. While many of those are in places that don't have the infrastructure to train them, it's still a huge production rate.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by chowdahhead (1618447)
      The amount of exposure in REMs during the Apollo missions was extraordinarily low in contrast to the common misconception that it wasn't. There are many reasons for manned colonization and exploration being less practical than robotic missions, but radiation exposure shouldn't be one of them. In fact, in terms of technical hurdles, it should be one of the easier to overcome. I think one of the arguments in favor of manned space flight is adaptability. Robotics are limited to what their design specificat
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bradbury (33372)

        I'm not talking about REM sleep. I'm talking about physical damage to DNA caused by ionizing radiation (gamma-rays & X-rays where the photons have enough energy to split water molecules) which produces hydroxyl radicals in the nucleus that attack the DNA. Similar but more extensive damage is caused by heavy ions (charged Fe, C, O, etc. that stream through space -- and ultimately contribute to cosmic ray showers). The only way to shield from the high energy photons is a lot of mass (e.g. lead or an eq

    • The moon is close enough that round trip radio can be used to control or reprogram robots in the event of complex/unforseen situations (remember we reprogrammed the Galileo mission when it proved necessary).

      That's why this endeavor is wholly useless for the operation in far-away places such as Mars, Europa (the Jovian moon), Titan, etc. By dicking around with remote controlled robots, we will learn next to nothing useful for colonizing the more hospitable planets of the solar system. The 40 minute (that would be the shortest) rount-trip of command-feedback loop to Mars, makes it necessary to basically give the commands to the martian rovers one day and wait till the next to see what happened. That slows down

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bradbury (33372)

        The satellites and the Mars rovers are not wholly "remote controlled" -- they are running "limited intelligence" programs that allow them significant amounts of autonomous operation. I'd put them as comparable to perhaps 4-8 year old humans in terms of "autonomous" operation. They needed external management and contributions from time to time. And as I recall Apollo 13 would fall into a similar category even though it had adult *human* operators.

        As far as "colonizing" goes -- there isn't a "hospitable pl

        • I don't want to get into a semantics argument. Point is, the rovers can barely dislodge themselves from a rut, or go 20 m per day. That's a problem sphere caused by highly-delayed remote control. I would be very surprised if you disagreed with this point. But hey, you just might.

          I won't get into your next paragraph - I don't believe in terraforming. And for the record, I am a researcher in nanotechnology.

          Your third paragraph sends your whole post straight into the trashbin.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kumanopuusan (698669)

      Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft - and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. - Wernher von Braun

  • Ohhhhhhhhh (Score:5, Funny)

    by dreemernj (859414) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @09:47AM (#32388842) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • And knowing the Japanese it probably will be the mission anthem.

    There you go, Astro Boy
    On your flight into space
    Rocket high, through the sky
    For adventures soon you will face!

    Astro Boy bombs away
    On your mission today
    Here's the countdown
    And the blastoff
    Everything is go Astro Boy!

    Astro Boy, as you fly
    Strange new worlds you will spy
    Atom celled, jet propelled
    Fighting monsters high in the sky!

    Astro Boy, there you go
    Will you find friend or foe?
    Cosmic Ranger, laugh at danger
    Everything is go Ast
    • You insensitive clod. Now that stupid song is going to be rattling around my brain all day. Why did you have to go and do that?
  • The Japanese robot moon base is a spectacular announcement. It provides the ability to perform all kind of work and activity on the moon without the burden of human life support, or risk to humans considering cosmic radiation cancer risk, silica moon dust hazards, etc.

    But here on Slashdot, many respond with nationalistic bickering and insults. Shouldn't this tech-savvy bunch be smarter and above this?

    Maybe humans in their present physical and psychological state aren't meant for really space? Off World w

  • Not 660 lbs, 300kg. (Score:5, Informative)

    by KeithIrwin (243301) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @10:53AM (#32389282)

    See, this is one of those places where we should discuss mass, not weight. Because it's not clear whether we're talking about robots which would weigh 660 pounds on earth or 660 pounds on the moon (which would be about 3960 pounds on Earth, quite a difference). The C-Net article (on which the PopSci article is based) took the information from a blog post [moriyama.com] from a Japanese Blog called Node. In that blog post, it says 300kg. The author of the C-Net article (Tim Hornyak) did the sloppy thing and just converted it to pounds without giving context. If you really want it in imperial units, the correct unit of mass is slugs. So the robots can be correctly described as being 300 kg, 20.56 slugs, or 660 pounds on Earth at sea-level.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think you're being a little too pedantic here. Mass or weight is *always* given in Earth terms unless explicitly stated otherwise.

    • by khallow (566160)
      Pounds is also a unit of mass.
  • remote control (Score:2, Insightful)

    by strack (1051390)
    the interesting thing is the moon is close enough for near real time control of the robots. your looking at a 2-3 second delay between the command and the visual feedback, but id say thats enough for a remote control type situation. give them a way to melt rocks on the moon, and a way to do some robot cnc tool actions, and i bet you can make damn near anything.
  • by pyalot (1197273) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @11:06AM (#32389378)
  • Why would robots require some sort of lunar base? They don't need to breathe, they wouldn't need to grow plants or anything for food, and they don't require any sort of protection that couldn't be built-in to themselves, so why would they need a base?
    • Centralized communications base, perhaps? Rather than beaming commands to a bunch of scattered robots, they beam to the stationary comm base, which then can use other (perhaps more suitable/robust) transmission protocols/wavelengths to the robots.
  • I wonder if the software used by the Japanese space agency, JAXA, is AJAX?

I am here by the will of the people and I won't leave until I get my raincoat back. - a slogan of the anarchists in Richard Kadrey's "Metrophage"

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