Mobile Moonbases

From New Scientist:

NASA engineers are testing out a giant, six-legged robot that could pick up and move a future Moon base thousands of kilometres across the lunar surface, allowing astronauts to explore much more than just the area around their landing site.

In a 2005 report about its exploration plans, NASA said it wanted to set up a base at a fixed location on the Moon after initially returning humans there in 2020.

But a gargantuan robotic vehicle called ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) could change that. Measuring about 7.5 metres wide, with legs more than 6 metres long, the robot could act essentially like a turtle, carrying the astronauts’ living quarters around on its back.

It was designed by engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, US, who are now testing two small-scale prototypes of the robot.

The astronauts’ 15-tonne living quarters, or habitat, could be mounted on ATHLETE before sending it to the Moon in a lunar lander. That would solve one major problem for NASA – how to lift the habitat off the lander, whose cargo area may sit up to 6 metres above the ground, and set it down at a desired location.

ATHLETE’s wheel-tipped legs are so long, “it just steps right off and carries the payload anywhere you want,” says JPL’s Brian Wilcox, who heads the ATHLETE project.

This is a pretty popular post. I found this at, and the Daily Galaxy. I guess it could be a feasable project, if one takes the tact of transporting pre-built habitats to the Moon. And the obvious advantage is that because of the mobility, the explorers can look for sources of fuel and water far afield without tiring out the human crew and exposing them to dangerous radiation.

The down-side to this would be the initial cost and lifting the heavy apparatus into orbit and on to the Moon. Already critics of NASA’s Contellation Program have dubbed it ‘Apollo on food stamps’. When America was worried about the Soviets during the 1960s, NASA got 4% of the National Budget. Now they only get 1/6 of 1% of the budget and people still whine the agency gets too much.

My native cynicism says that this idea ain’t gonna fly, unless the human component is taken out of it. Then the public would ‘buy’ into it, because ‘no human life will be in danger’ and the large mobile explorer can roam the lunar surface doing research for the ‘crew’ on Earth or ISS via virtual reality.


2 responses

  1. I know the idea of going back to the Moon is to develop and test technology to go to Mars, but I’m not holding my breath on that either.

    The only things that would get people excited about space exploration anymore would be finding proof of extraterrestrial life, or a discovery of some kind of valuable resource that would make private companies perk their ears up, lift their noses and smell ‘money’.

  2. Hi dad2059…

    We’re past the age of “excitement” for space exploration. We’re flat dead broke as a nation. The housing market~banking debacle is in its “infancy”. Unemployment is surging while commodities inflation is going to be the true “moonshot” of the decade and beyond.

    When people start laying out a fivespot plus per gallon for gas and the truckers even moreso for diesel then everything is coming to a grinding halt! Then comes the contraction no different than what happens after the pre-expansion of a red giant star prior to it’s mightily rapid contraction into a nova event.

    American suburbs are going to become wastelands of abandoned homes with grass growing through the pavement within a decade or less filled with squaters, gang-bangers and rats. Figuratively speaking most Americans will be living by the RR tracks in tarpaper shacks spearing rats with fire-hardened sticks… : | For those that think not then you best think again. Our evil, greedy leaders at all levels of government from local to national have sown the wind and we the people along with them shall reap the whirlwind or our collective irresponsible profligacy…!

    The days of ongoing government welfare for NASA geek programs is going to come to a screeching halt…!

    Stagflation; ie., economic stagnation along with commodities inflation is stalking this land and even the world like a raging beast out of our worst nightmares, no different than the monster from “Forbidden Planet” ; ie., the monster from the id (subsoncious mind)…!

    My advice to anyone who’s solvent, insolvent or in between is to start battening down the hatches and start focusing on their own survival rather than the “future of anything” at this point in world history.
    Use your already burgeoned credit cards to buy food, survival equipment and even as much cash as you can mine from the card to buy some silver and gold in tenth ounce parcels. Then if the time should come you have to declare bankruptcy and “stick the man” then at least you’ll have something of value for your personal safety and survival. Don’t forget to have some ready-cash in the current “funny-money” specie at home to negotiate bills in our failing currency paradigm. Possibly several thousand on hand in 20’s, 10’s, 5’s and 1’s also several hundred bucks in modern change; ie. quarters, dimes, nickels for vending machines and to payoff fools who’ll still accept such nonsense.

    Priorities are affordable shelter, food, transportation and having some commodity based fungible specie on hand such as silver coins and for those that have a better financial position some gold in tenth ounce allotments as aforementioned. As gold soars whole ounces will not be owner friendly for converting to whatever the current currency might be; ie., the hyper-inflated USD, or even the new Amero if they should call in dollars and launch a new currency based scam. If they go to digital currency then gold will still be good for exchange in black markets which will always survive the scams launched by the mega-banking mattoids that want to control the world. If they pass laws againt the use of gold or silver as specie then all I can say that the “right” to survive cannot be abrogated by any authority…period. So f**k’em along with their decrees and laws.

    I rest my case.

    Carl Nemo **==

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