Build a Robot to Dig the Most Moon Dirt!
NASA announced in Toronto this week a contest launched in search of a
robot that can dig the most lunar dirt. "They bring in their
rovers and each get 30 minutes in the sandbox." The prize is
$250,000US for these basic contest rules: "The machine that
autonomously excavates and delivers
the most lunar soil simulant to a collection point in 30 minutes wins
the purse." The contest will take place in the fall of 2006 or
spring of 2007 in California. I guess they found a
great device for turning
moon dirt into oxygen, now they just need a robot that can deliver
that dirt! No doubt this is all part of the new
$104 billion back to the moon plan that NASA recently unveiled.
Related Robots.net articles...
Soil Simulant? You mean they'll be using fake dirt? What could
possibly be cheaper than dirt?
It looks like they want one of those Terran SCV's from "Starcraft".
It's not that it's simulating dirt. It's simulating lunar regolith.
MOON DIRT. The production of it was also the subject research and
development. There was a workshop on it in January.
When I looked yesterday, there seemed to be precious little in the way
of actual detail for the competition, but they were clear about the
dirt. It's as fine as talcum powder, but heavily compacted.
Compacted talcum powder, huh?
In that case, I'd think along the lines of a motorized needle or
jackhammer to powderize it, then I could suck it up with a vacuum
Oh yeah, MOON. Nevermind...
I could leave the glass sleeves off of the thermionic devices I'd use
for the electronics, though.
meanwhile..., posted 22 Sep 2005 at 18:30 UTC by dogsbody_d »
I really hate a lot of people. Particularly smart-asses on Slashdot who
think that they are sooooo clever and could solve any problem in the
world if they could be bothered. There are several posts over there
that do suggest using roombas or whatever. Or that say "um SHOVEL!" as
if having a guy in a spacesuit is anywhere near as sustainable over a
period of months. Unless you have a spacesuit that regenerates air
using solar power or something.
The joy of the competition idea is that anyone* who thinks they know
best can just knock up their idea and show the rest of us what idiots we
are. Grrr. Posts that start "It's obvious to me that....."
Same was true with robot wars. Backseat roboticists. Grrrrr X 2
*anyone American that is. Grrrr X 3!
hang on, posted 23 Sep 2005 at 13:59 UTC by dogsbody_d »
I hope you don't think that I was being mean in my above post! Everyone
round here appreciates the problems and advantages of robots. (Plus the
need for air to operate vacuum cleaners).
Furthermore, I quite like your needle-driver approach. The trouble is
though, that without the full competition specs, including the soil, we
are all a bit in the dark I guess. Other than we assume that they're
more interested in the collected regolith than the shape of the hole...
We're all friends here.
My two posts were indeed meant to be more humorous than informative,
I've now been thinking seriously about the problem - how to collect
what may be a powdery or chalky substance in a reduced-gravity, zero
atmosphere environment, where dead reckoning and odometry may be
compromised due to the roughness of the terrain. As of this time, we
have no Moon GPS, (MPS?) either. And I'm thinking there would be more
than one of these moon-miners working at once.
I'll sign off with a Slashdot cliche:
"I welcome our new moon dirt gathering robotic overlords"
The thing that's interesting is that the moon environment is not
what/where the contest will be testing in but rather in California.
I'm sure that considering whether the robot would actually work in such
an environment would be a consideration, tho.
So if you don't have gravity and you don't have air (for suction), I
guess you're design would have to rely heavily on how to push/sling the
Dogsbody - I for one was laughing; and I agree - we are all good
I think I need a sample of this "Synthetic Moon Dirt" (SMD) to
determine what kind of digger needs to be on the robot.
moon rocks, posted 23 Sep 2005 at 20:25 UTC by steve »
I saw a news item last night on what steps NASA was taking to
protect their real moon rocks from huricane Rita. Apparently they store
a lot of them at the Houston facility.
Hooray!, posted 26 Sep 2005 at 10:24 UTC by dogsbody_d »
Yeah, I didn't think anyone would really take offense, bu I didn't want
y'all to think I was being mean ;)
Oh it turns out that the moon might have an atmosphere, depending
on your definition. The rocks give off gas, but most of it does escape.
Even so, it's a bit like there being some alcohol in
alcohol-free beer IYSWIM...
Anyhoo, while I think that the solutions developed on Earth will work on
the moon, it does seem unlikely that they will be able to exploit the
lunar circumstances, like the pressure and gravity.
So what we need is a real lunar laboratory!