NASA Boosts Funding for Moon Railway Project

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By Lydia Amazouz Published on May 8, 2024 11:41
Nasa Boosts Funding For Moon Railway Project

NASA has raised funding for a magnet-powered lunar train that might transport materials over the moon's surface as part of a project to investigate various SCI-fi-inspired ideas.

NASA Increases Funding for Lunar Railway Project as Part of Innovative Concepts Program

Float (Flexible Levitation on a Track) is a Jet Propulsion Laboratory project that has advanced to phase two of NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) research.

Other concepts in development include a pulsed plasma rocket to shorten travel times between Earth and any location in the solar system, as well as a gigantic optical observatory in space.

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The lunar railway system, which might be functional within the next decade, would allow “reliable, autonomous, and efficient payload transport on the Moon”. It might help move tonnes of regolith across the surface, which could then be mined for various materials for use by humans or at a lunar colony.

NASA's 'Float' Concept Redefines Moon Base Transportation

The Float concept involves unpowered magnetic robots levitating over a three-layer flexible film track to propel carts at approximately 1mph (1.61 km/h).

The project is being led by Ethan Schaler, a NASA robotics expert, who believes that it will carry 100 tonnes each day.

“Float will operate autonomously in the dusty, inhospitable lunar environment with minimal site preparation and its network of tracks can be rolled up/reconfigured over time to match evolving lunar base mission requirements,” stated Mr Schaler.

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In contrast to lunar robots with wheels, legs, or tracks, float robots have no moving parts and levitate above the track to reduce lunar dust abrasion.

According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, this rail system might enable day-to-day operations of a viable lunar base as early as 2030.

John Nelson, NIAC programme executive at NASA headquarters in Washington, stated: “These diverse, science fiction-like concepts represent a fantastic class of phase two of studies.

“Our NIAC fellows never cease to amaze and inspire and this class definitely gives NASA a lot to think about in terms of what’s possible in the future.”

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An editor specializing in astronomy and space industry, passionate about uncovering the mysteries of the universe and the technological advances that propel space exploration.

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