NASA looks toward robotic rovers to build its planned lunar base in 2020

NASA wants to build a polar outpost on the Moon starting in 2020, and one of the most promising ways to get that done is by using robo-Tonka trucks (pictured above in an artist's rendering). The space agency is partnering up with Astrobotic Technology and researchers from Carnegie Mellon University to design the rovers, which would be charged with fleshing out a landing pad and launch site for rockets and other spacecraft.

Right now, there are two proposals on the table. The first is to construct an 8.5-foot-tall, semi-circular berm 160 feet in diameter so that lunar dust won't scatter when a rocket lifts off. The second involves building a hard-surface pad for craft to launch from.

The rovers themselves are still being fleshed out. It's thought that two 330-pound 'bots working together would be able to get the berm done in as little as six months. As for the landing pad, the researchers concluded that the task could be completed by smaller robots combing the moon's surface for rocks to construct the hard surface of the deck. After that, NASA could start landing materials on the moon and begin constructing a base from there.

Astrobotic Technology, via CMU, via Robots.net