Regolith Excavation Challenge Yields Prize Money

Contestants in NASA's Regolith Excavation Challenge finally struck gold; not in lunar dust, but in prize booty. Team Braundo became the first contender to meet the minimum qualification for the prize. Robot Braundo used a conveyor belt with cup-sized scoops to harvest and deposit over 260 kilograms of material.


(Team Braundo from California)

Lunar soil consists of rock dust particles on average a fifth the size of a grain of sand, but with sharp edges because the moon has no weathering process to grind them down. The Regolith Challenge takes place in a 4-metre-square arena filled half a metre deep with finely ground volcanic rock made as close to real moon dust as possible. Before each machine takes its turn, judges compact the material, rake the surface and randomly place football-sized rocks on top.

Each team got 30 minutes to harvest and deposit at least 150 kilograms of regolith into a container outside the arena...

Most of the would-be lunar bulldozers and dust-diggers were teleoperated from a room just outside the "arena". Just to remind you who landed on the Moon first, NASA added a two-second delay to simulate the time needed to relay signals between the Earth and the Moon.

(Regolith Excavation Challenge video from New Scientist)

Personally, I think that Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven are still out in the lead, having used the idea of a telepresence bulldozer in a 1981 novel for just this kind of work.

"Meet Rachel Lief," Lunan said. "Ms. Lief is a bulldozer driver." Lunan paused for effect. "As you see, Ms. Lief doesn't look like your typical tractor driver..."

"But then," Lunan said, "not every bulldozer operator works on the Moon." The cameras followed the trim woman into another room, where there was a replica of a large tractor. It was surrounded by TV screens. One screen showed an astronaut sitting in the driver's seat, staring impatiently into the screen. A bleak, nearly colorless pit showed over his left shoulder.

"About time you got here," the astronaut said.

"We were busy," Rachel sat down in the driver's seat and took hold of the controls. "I relieve you..."

The bulldozer moved through the lunar strip mine...
(Read more about Pournelle and Niven's telepresence bulldozer from Oath of Fealty)

Update 29-Oct-2009: Thanks to reader SoggySneaker, I remembered that the excellent 2009 movie Moon has some great scenes involving massive autonomous lunar excavators that are exactly what is prototyped by the engineers depicted in the above video. Here's a picture from the movie version of the Moon; take a look at the Moon movie trailer.


(Lunar excavator from Moon movie trailer)

End update.

Read more about the Regolith Excavation Challenge; via New Scientist.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/23/2009)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Humanity Star LEO Advertisement?
'Everyone has noticed those enormous advertisements...' Jules Verne, 1889.

Bigelow Prepares Inflatable Lunar Hotel
'Suddenly, hitherto unheard-of sums of money became available for investment in civilian orbital stations.' - Carl Sagan, 1985.

NASA SEXTANT First With X-Ray Nav In Space
'You need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.' - Harry Harrison, 1956.

Subsurface Martian Ice Slabs Piece Of Cake For Miners
'One shy little fellow with bloodshot eyes of old-time drillman stood up. 'I'm an ice miner,' he said.' - Robert Heinlein, 1966.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

A 'Genuine Nanorobotic Production Factory'
'Microscopic machinery, smaller than ants, smaller than pins, working energetically, purposefully - constructing something...'

Neuromorphic Computer Offers Non-von Neumann Architecture
Fires faster than brain at 1/10K energy.

Evorus Your Crowd-Powered Conversational Assistant
'...the DS [Daily Schedule] was suddenly transformed into a valued confidante.'

Mealworms Food Of The Future
Get your grubs on.

Alibaba's AI May Read Better Than You
'Mike ... could accept other languages and was doing technical translating - and reading endlessly.'

Musk's Boring Flamethrower
'Skeletons in tatters. Burned by a flesh gun'

Humanity Star LEO Advertisement?
'Everyone has noticed those enormous advertisements...'

Nissan ProPILOT Slippers Are Self-Parking, Autonomous
Beyond science and fiction.

Atomristors - Atomic Memristors - Using Thin Nanomaterials
'I could almost feel those little tunnel junction neuristors working, forming their own interconnections as I operated it.'

Bigelow Prepares Inflatable Lunar Hotel
'Suddenly, hitherto unheard-of sums of money became available for investment in civilian orbital stations.'

Drunk Driver Of Tesla Claims Autopilot Was In Charge
'Mr. Garden, you are in no condition to drive.'

Medical Exoskeleton From Cyberdyne Gets FDA Approval
It's been a long road for HAL-5; I started writing about it in 2005.

Fungi-Infused Concrete Repairs Itself
'I noticed that curious mottled knots were forming, indicating where the room had been strained and healed faultily.'

Shiftwear Display Shoes
'He unlaced her shoe and glanced at its readout.'

NASA SEXTANT First With X-Ray Nav In Space
'You need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.'

GM Introduces Cruise AV With No Steering Wheel
'How about the steering wheel?' ... 'I do not need one.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.