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Robotics Moon NASA Science

Moon-Excavation Robots Face Off 61

avishere writes "Student teams designed and built robotic power-lifters to excavate simulated lunar soil (a.k.a. 'regolith') earlier this month, with $750,000 in prizes up for grabs. Excavating regolith, according to NASA, will be an important part of any construction projects or processing of natural resources on the Moon. Interestingly, regolith is especially difficult to dig because its dust particles want to stick together. The whole robotic system has to be sturdy enough to scoop moon dirt and powerful enough to move through the dust while still meeting the weight requirements. The winning excavator, from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, lifted 1,103 pounds within the allotted time, and got its creators a sweet $500,000 for their troubles."
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Moon-Excavation Robots Face Off

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  • The next step... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Saturday October 31, 2009 @12:13PM (#29935093)

    Regardless of the speed and mass abilities of the excavators, I'd be interested in seeing a system that can excavate, process, and create something from simulated regolith in a high-static, near-vacuum environment.

    Specifically, I recall seeing articles about how it might be easy to create low-efficiency solar cells and a form of concrete from regolith.

    Assuming that works, I'd like to see a 'bot that can dig up some regolith, make a concrete igloo big enough to be useful, and cover it and the surroundings with solar cells. I suppose we're decades away from that...

  • Re:something missing (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31, 2009 @12:52PM (#29935311)

    Nature handles this by putting a protective skin over the internal organs. A similar approach avoids the issue. A four or more legged walker with digging arms with a flexible outer skin would work well. It doesn't have to be rubber just have give like mylar. Most of the approaches I've seen ignore the dust issue and go for traditional exposed mechanics. Even if breaches happened it'd still keep out the bulk of the dust.

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford