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Moon Robotics Space Technology

Water-Prospecting Lunar Rover Prototype Built 36

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-let's-make-it-self-replicating dept.
Zothecula writes "Astrobotic Technology Inc., a spin-off company of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), has debuted its full-size flight prototype of its Polaris lunar water-prospecting robot. Polaris is specially designed to work in the permanently shadowed craters at the Moon's poles. Scheduled to be sent to the Moon using a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle, the solar-powered rover is a contender in the US$20 million Google Lunar X Prize and is tasked with seeking ice deposits that could be used by future colonists."
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Water-Prospecting Lunar Rover Prototype Built

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  • by tomalok (33171)

    If it's solar powered, how's it going to work in the permanently shadowed craters?

    • Re:So... (Score:5, Funny)

      by sconeu (64226) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:26PM (#41601203) Homepage Journal

      Duh. It's going to use the photocells to power a light aimed at the photocells!

    • by citab (1677284)

      Mirrors, it's all done with mirrors ... all the sunlight you want.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wolf1oo (1732258)

      When they say permanently shadowed, they mean from directly above. I have seen the rover (I attend CMU), it has solar cells that face toward the horizon, to capture the small amount of energy that comes over the side. Apparently it works pretty well and efficiently, or so they say :)

      • it has solar cells that face toward the horizon, to capture the small amount of energy that comes over the side

        May I know what's the mass of the rover?

        Is the "small amount of energy" captured by the solar cell enough to power the movement of the rover?















        • by wolf1oo (1732258)

          I'm not sure of the actual mass, they never mentioned it last time I saw them, but they did say that the rover could be operating for a large portion of the "day" on the moon.

          It has a footprint of about 7 feet by 12 feet, give or take a foot in each. Two reasonably strong men were able to lift up one end of it when they were positioning it for a movement demo, so it can't be too massive...

  • Another bright idea to put solar panels in the 'permanently shadowed craters'? Way to go! Physics 101!
    • Re:A bright idea? (Score:5, Informative)

      by multiben (1916126) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:33PM (#41601289)
      Since your clicking finger may be broken, here is a relevant section of the article to help you out:

      To find the ice, a rover thus must operate as close to the dark poles as possible, but not so far that it can't use solar arrays for power, Whittaker said. Polaris thus has three large solar arrays, arranged vertically to capture light from low on the horizon. The solar arrays will be capable of an average of 250 watts of electrical power.

      Funny how they did actually consider this before designing a multi-million dollar robot. It looks like maybe they did complete Physics 101.
    • by Vylen (800165)
      To find the ice, a rover thus must operate as close to the dark poles as possible, but not so far that it can't use solar arrays for power, Whittaker said. Polaris thus has three large solar arrays, arranged vertically to capture light from low on the horizon. The solar arrays will be capable of an average of 250 watts of electrical power.

      So, I guess it'll be in craters that are shadowed by the depth of the walls of the crater, but by not too deep of a crater so as long as the panels are taller than them
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Polaris is five and a half feet (1.67 m) high, seven feet (2.13 m) wide, about eight feet (2.43 m) long and weighs 150 pounds (68.03 kg). In addition to its own weight, it can carry another 150 pounds as well as the weight of a drill.

    Only 150 lbs for such a large rover, and it can carry all of that weight? That's pretty impressive.

    (Yes, I know 150lbs won't amount to much on the Moon. I'm still impressed)

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_versus_weight [wikipedia.org] It would be wise to refer to the mass of objects being deployed to other planets/moons by mass, not weight.
      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        The pound is also a unit of mass [wikipedia.org].

        Fucking Imperial system, am I right?

        • Burn it all I say, long live the metric system. The Discovery channel just makes it worse, mixing imperial units and SI units depending on which one gives the biggest number for the highest "wow factor". Lets all use kilometers and Fahrenheit!
    • (Yes, I know 150lbs won't amount to much on the Moon. I'm still impressed)

      It'll amount to the same weight on the moon as on Earth. Granted, it'll take much more mass to get up to the weight. If it can haul 150lbs here, it can do the same anywhere.

  • by eexaa (1252378) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @04:39PM (#41601349) Homepage

    Somewhere I read that there's little chance to find any good source of water on a planet (or other rock-ball type) without a magnetic field, because that is the only thing that prevents massive hydrogen/water molecules loss from upper parts of the atmosphere caused by solar winds. Therefore, Earth has water, other planets have only uninteresting amounts of it.

    Maybe there are (ice) deposits from the time the planets (moon) had the magnetic field? Can anyone clarify?

    • Neptune has a significant amount of water, as do some of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.

      The lack of liquid water on the surfaces of planets and moons is due to most being too cold and hence covered in ice or lacking a significant atmosphere and not having enough pressure for water to remain liquid.
    • Big assumptions in that.

      One thing both the moon and mars do have is lots of dust, not only is dust an insulator, but water tends to stick to surfaces lowering the rate at which it'll move into the atmosphere. Once it hits the atmosphere, yes, it'll tend to get stripped by solar winds. However the initial quantities of water, the rate at which water ends up in the atmosphere and the rate of redeposition (particularly of hydrogen) are still unknowns.

  • by kimvette (919543) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @11:16PM (#41604207) Homepage Journal

    Polaris is specially designed to work in the permanently shadowed craters at the Moon's poles. Scheduled to be sent to the Moon using a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle, the solar-powered rover is a contender in the US$20 million Google Lunar X Prize

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • I can't wait for billions of my taxes to be spent finding water on the moon because we all know our economy is strong and infallible, humans have no disease or global strife, and the government is sitting flush with money just wasting away doing nothing because our education and healthcare are all top notch.

    I hope one day soon scientists are going to find water on another moon or planet and be so happy they have never wasted one taxpayer dollar doing so.

    I am also stoked for a new season of Sarcastaball to g

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