May 31, 2020

07.11.09:Attack of the Lunar Rovers!

NASA plans to send new hardware back to a familiar place; the Moon. Specifically, scientists at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona are studying the hugely successful rover activities on Mars to see if they can be emulated in a low-cost fashion on the Moon. It isn’t generally known that much of the Moon is largely unexplored from a ground-level perspective; the early unmanned Surveyor-style landers in the 60′s were stationary, and the Apollo astronauts were restricted to nearside, equatorial landing sites. Intelligent lunar rovers would allow for extensive surveys of unexplored areas such as the South Pole Aitken Basin, one of the largest impact basins in the solar system. Rovers could also scout out future manned landing sites as well as search for that treasure of treasures; water. Unlike the Martian rovers, the signal round trip is negligible, thus allowing for near real-time control. So, when might we see this new breed of lunar robots? Well, NASA has unofficial plans to place its first rover in 2014. The Chinese however, may beat us to tasting lunar dirt with the Chang’e-3 mission in 2013…who will win the battle of the 21st century lunar rovers? Stay tuned!