Roving Robots Will Start Lunar Colonization
To survive on another planet, we would need a reliable water supply, food, basic manufacturing facilities like 3D printers and robots for exploration and transport. Astrobotic Technology Inc. is engaged in providing cost-beneficial landers and roving robots for planetary missions. The company is designing robotic equipment for NASA and will carry payload from space agencies and scientific institutions to the Moon. John Thornton, the President of Astrobotic Technology Inc., claims “The Moon is a first step in human beings learning to live off beyond the Earth. It’s very important to the future of mankind to expand beyond our home planet: to satisfy our innate curiosity, for exploration and potentially for survival should we damage this Earth beyond repair.” The company is going to send a lander and a rover to the Moon to search for water in October 2015. Since water’s components can be used to make almost everything, even rocket fuel, extracting water and making fuel locally could greatly reduce the cost of planetary exploration. The robot rover Polaris will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and after landing will search for polar ice. Thornton says that the first lunar industry may be mining; the Moon could be a potentially huge source of a lot of rare materials, like platinum, Helium-3 (a third generation, nuclear fusion fuel which creates no radiation as a byproduct). Robots could prepare settlements suitable for human beings: look for landing sites, find new caves, map the cave network, construct infrastructure for returning to those caves and finally create habitats for humans. The company also aims to win Google’s Lunar X prize, a $20 million reward for the first privately-funded robot to land on the surface of the Moon, drive 500 meters and send video and images back to Earth.