Lunar technology: the leap into the future


09/04/2009

In the onboard computer in the lunar capsule that landed on the moon during the Apollo program was a huge amount at the time of RAM - 4 kilobytes and a hard drive with 74 kilobytes. In some places, the device outer skin has a thickness of not more than two layers of aluminum foil.

And that was enough for normal operation. In those days, astronauts could remain on the lunar surface for a few days. But when NASA once again take up the lunar program in 2020 for the implementation of the fantastic designs will require a much more sophisticated equipment.

Instead of a few days stay, the astronauts will live on the moon for months on end, and it will make it much more "look" on the lunar surface. Thus, NASA will develop a new generation of hardware required for the implementation of the mission: intelligent robots, lunar rovers, trucks with a pressurized cabin, inflatable residential complexes and laboratories, etc.

In the days of the Apollo missions robotic aids existed only as a sci-fi projects. If an astronaut had to move any heavy equipment, he had to do it yourself, and if you wanted to explore the crater, there was talk of a robot scout who could conduct an initial study of the situation and to supply the data astronauts. Semi-autonomous robots being developed in the framework of the development of technologies for research systems ETDP (Exploration Technology Development Program, ETDP), designed to reduce the risks by helping astronauts with such tasks.

Legged spider robot called ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) can lift heavy things. This large flatbed truck can be loaded with many useful devices, tools and various materials for the study. In the layout truck, built in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory), on each leg has a wheel. Thus, it can, for example, to drive under the lander module, pick it up and take you to another place, stepping over boulders, coming across the road. In addition, the astronauts can change the wheel of one or more supports for drills or other tools to help you cope with other maintenance tasks or research.

ATHLETE, as well as other, smaller robot scouts will be equipped with a powerful processor, allowing to control the distance and the recognition of and response to gestures astronauts. It is clear that 4 kilobytes of RAM for such smart supercars is not enough :)

When astronauts dare to ride on the lunar surface, they will have a much better vehicle than the old moonbuggy. The new all-terrain vehicle developed by ETDP, will be more like the van. He will not even sleeping space to astronauts could rest during long excursions. Convex window will explore the surroundings without leaving the secure lunomobil.

Sometimes, however, no bulging windows can not replace going outside and doing some practical research. The suits are attached outside rover will get rid of the air lock and tedious disguise: a space suit can climb right out of the salon all-terrain vehicle. And these suits, in addition, will be able to resist much longer abrasive lunar dust. The service life of spacesuits will have to be several months or even years.

Upon returning to base, future lunar explorers will be able to feel safe in a special room where the air, water, food and protection from harmful radiation for months.

EDTP develops inflatable housing units that can be mounted on the surface immediately after the arrival of the moon. Exterior finish of the habitable module based on a thick layer of regolith (lunar soil) of the material would provide excellent radiation shielding residents inside.

All of this - very expensive. But the money spent on these technologies now means more than just a long-term human presence on the moon. New technologies and invaluable experience will in the near future to settle person elsewhere in the solar system. For example, on Mars. News First, download and upload news ticker on your page.

Original: Science.nasa.gov


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