NASA wants to terraform the moon with a fleet of autonomous robots

russia space taxi ryvok moon
There are few things as thoroughly fascinating as outer space and robots, and NASA just decided to give half a million dollars to a project combining the two — because, you know, science. Moving forward with Phase II of its annual Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, NASA selected a unique proposal which would essentially turn one of the moon’s craters into a habitat for autonomous robots, and one day, humans.

Seriously. The proposal, which comes from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, aims to send an army of robots to the moon’s Shackleton Crater to install a series of solar-powered transformers. These transformers would then allow the robots to develop a hospitable environment ripe for scientific lab analyses, and create a base of operations on the crater — which happens to contain huge amounts of liquid hydrogen and oxygen. According to scientist Adrian Stoica — the man pioneering this proposal — farming this liquid hydrogen and oxygen would make inter-planetary travel a more viable possibility.

StoicaImage

What makes Shackleton Crater such an attractive location for this large terraforming project is its massive size (roughly 130 square miles), as well as the fact it’s entirely flanked by peaks measuring some 14,000 feet in height. NASA essentially wants its band of robots to set up shop in a colossal crater nearly twice the size of Washington D.C. Moreover, scientists already concluded three years ago that Shackleton Crater — located on the moon’s South Pole — contains an abundance of ice (aka water), based on the fact the area is incredibly reflective. While robots have little need for water, it does ensure human life may one day have the ability to sustain itself once that particular step in the project arrives.

For the robots’ survival, each requires a substantial amount of warmth and electrical power to function properly. Because the interior of Shackleton Crater receives next to no direct sunlight — and measures at around -280 degrees Fahrenheit — the robots first task will be to set up a series of solar reflectors to direct light from the surrounding peaks into the crater. To set these up, NASA intends to deploy a flock of rovers to carry the reflectors around the rim of the crater to track down sunlight. Each reflector possesses the ability to reflect light six miles down onto the surface, which in turn powers a separate band of rovers with around one megawatt of energy. With several rovers beaming sunlight from the rim into the crater, NASA plans to design the rovers inside to build a sustainable oasis geared towards giving the robots a resource to recharge themselves, warm up, and operate equipment.

Though NASA recently awarded this proposal $500k for a two-year-long study, don’t get too excited about seeing this plan in action any time soon. The team behind the proposal is currently devising a blueprint for a usable reflector capable of fitting into a box that’s just three cubic feet, weighs no more than 220 pounds, and features a 10,700-foot, thin blanket with 95 percent long-term reflectivity.

You’d be right to figure this a tall task to accomplish — even for NASA — but there’s no getting around just how intriguing the prospect of putting autonomous robots on the moon is. You’ve got our attention, Adrian.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Emerging Tech

Probes exploring Earth’s hazardous radiation belts enter final phase of life

The Van Allen probes have been exploring the radiation belts around Earth for seven years. Now the probes are moving into the final phase of their exploration, coming closer to Earth to gather more data before burning up in the atmosphere.
Movies & TV

You should read these epic sci-fi novels before they become blockbuster films

You can get ahead of the next crop of science-fiction movies coming out of Hollywood by picking up the books that inspired them. We compiled a list of books you can add to your reading list now to get a glimpse of the future.
Smart Home

No strings attached: This levitating lamp uses science to defy gravity

Now on Kickstarter, the Levia lamp is a cool industrial-looking lamp which boasts a levitating bulb. Looking for a table light that will dazzle visitors? You've come to the right place.
Emerging Tech

The Great White Shark’s genome has been decoded, and it could help us end cancer

In a significant step for marine and genetic science, researchers have decoded the genome of the great white shark. The genetic code revealed a wealth of insight into what makes these creatures so successful from an evolutionary standpoint.
Emerging Tech

‘Guerrilla rainstorm’ warning system aims to prevent soakings, or worse

Japanese researchers have created a "guerrilla rainstorm" early-warning system aimed at preventing severe soakings, or worse. The team hopes to launch the system before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Mobile

Barbie’s Corvette ain’t got nothing on Sphero’s fully programmable robot car

Sphero is known for devices like the Sphero Bolt and BB-8 Star Wars toy, but now the company is back with another addition to its lineup -- the Sphero RVR. The RVR is a fully programmable robot car that can be expanding with different…
Emerging Tech

Japanese spacecraft will collect a sample from asteroid Ryugu by shooting at it

The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 will soon touch down on the asteroid Ryugu, where it will collect a sample by shooting a bullet into the soil. The sample will be returned to Earth in 2020 to learn about the formation of asteroids.
Emerging Tech

Hong Kong’s vision for a smart prison is a full-blown Orwellian nightmare

Hong Kong wants to bring prisons up to date by introducing new location-tracking wristbands for inmates, and a robot arm whose job is to comb through poop on the lookout for contraband.
Emerging Tech

No faking! Doctors can now objectively measure how much pain you’re in

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine have discovered the blood biomarkers that can objectively reveal just how much pain a patient is in. Here's why that's so important.
Emerging Tech

SeaBubbles’ new electric hydrofoil boat is the aquatic equivalent of a Tesla

What do you get if you combine a Tesla, a flying car, and a sleek boat? Probably something a bit like SeaBubbles, the French "flying" boat startup which offers a fresh spin on the hydrofoil.
Emerging Tech

We tried a $500 electronic dab rig, and now we can’t go back to normal vaporizers

Induction heating is the future of cannabis vaporizers. Loto Labs wowed us with what likely is the best concentrate vaporizer on the market today. With a $500 price tag, it's expensive, but it should definitely be your next dab rig.
Emerging Tech

Israel will launch world’s first privately funded moon mission tomorrow

This week will see the world's first privately funded lunar mission launch. Israel's first mission to the moon will be launched aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday, February 21.