Moon Robotics Tests
15 Sep 2009
Ashley Edwards/Grey Hautaluoma
Johnson Space Center, Houston
NASA CONCLUDES ROBOTICS TESTS FOR THE MOON IN ARIZONA
WASHINGTON -- NASA has concluded two weeks of technology development
tests on two of the agency's prototype lunar rovers. The Desert RATS
-- or Research and Technology Studies -- in the Arizona desert at
Black Point Lava Flow allow NASA to analyze and refine technologies
and procedures in extreme environments on Earth.
"These tests provide us with crucial information about how our cutting
edge vehicles perform in field situations approximating the moon,"
said Rob Ambrose, Human Robotic Systems project lead at NASA's
Johnson Space Center in Houston. "We learn from them, then go back
home to refine the technology and plan the next focus of our
The annual studies featured an intensive, simulated 14-day mission.
Two crew members, an astronaut and a geologist, lived for more than
300 hours inside NASA's prototype Lunar Electric Rover. The explorers
scouted the area for features of geological interest, then donned
spacesuits and conducted simulated moonwalks to collect samples. The
crew also docked to a simulated habitat, drove the rover across
difficult terrain, performed a rescue mission and made a four-day
traverse across the lava.
Throughout the test, the crew provided updates via Twitter and posted
pictures and video online. To see the images and videos and read
about the simulated mission, visit:
Prior to the test, NASA's K10 scout robot identified areas of interest
for the crew to explore. NASA's heavy-lift rover Tri-ATHLETE -- or
All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer -- carried a
habitat mockup to which the rover docked.
The Desert RATS tests have been held for more than a decade, as
engineers from NASA centers work with representatives from industry
and academia to determine what will be needed for human exploration
of the moon and other destinations in the solar system. This year's
work built on the investigations of previous years and increased the
scope and length of the tests.
Eight NASA centers were involved in the project. Desert RATS
participants from outside NASA include the Smithsonian Institution in
Washington; the United States Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Ariz.;
Arizona State University in Tempe; University of Texas at El Paso;
University of Colorado at Denver; Brown University in Providence,
R.I.; the Mars Institute at Moffett Field, Calif.; and the Challenger
Center for Space Science Education in Alexandria, Va.
For more information about NASA's exploration efforts, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration