A team of researchers, contracted by NASA, is building robots that can investigate Moon pits, some structures similar to hollows that could hold lots of resources that could help in designing a home for astronauts living on its surface.
The project is funded by NASA and is part of the agency’s Artemis mission, which is set to put humans on the lunar surface by the year 2024. The $2 million check was awarded to robotics department at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), which will work to build robots specialized to enter Moon pits. Scientists at CMU believe those pits are a central focus for the resource use and habitat building they plan as part of future lunar development.
The Moon pits are similar to sinkholes here on Earth. Craters on the Moon are generated by collisions with cosmic bodies such as asteroids, and take shape when the Moon’s surface collapses. Some researchers think that these hollows could unveil more extensive caverns hidden underneath the lunar surface that could protect the human race from radiation.
NASA Plans To Survey Moon Pits With Robots
However, scientists cannot definitely know, as long as they don’t observe the inner part of these pits, although this could be risky for humans to do. So, to discover how well these hollows would benefit astronomers in the future, and what kinds of features hold, NASA demanded robots that can investigate the craters. The robots could gather data about the pits and help create models of the features, which have been observed with orbital images so far.
Developing robots able to perform such a mission will be an achievement. These devices will have to be quick and agile, walking several miles over different types of terrain. They will also have to be capable of finding their way back to the lander, that will be better capable of communicating with the Earth.
According to William Whittaker, a roboticist at Carnegie Mellon University, and lead of the project, the rovers will also have what he calls ‘exploration autonomy,’ or the capacity to judge about where to go and how close to get to the edge of the lunar hollows. The Carnegie Mellon project will also have teams at the NASA Ames Research Center in California and Astrobotic. Astrobotic is a company that created robotic space technology and is developing one of the first commercial landers NASA has engaged in sending experiments to the Moon.