NASA wants to build a floating railway on the moon

NASAs The “Moon to Mars” project aims to establish a human settlement on the surface of the moon and eventually reach the Red Planet. Making this happen safely and comfortably requires setting up infrastructure, including a floating railway line used to move tools and materials.

The technology is called Flexible Levitation on a Track (FLOAT) and is described as “durable, long-lasting robotic NASA has identified two major use cases: It can carry regolith mined for construction purposes, which would save astronauts the hassle of flying from Earth in cement and cinder blocks, and it can move cargo such as tools from the moon base to the moon base. other landing zones or outposts.

You are literally and figuratively on the wrong track if you imagine a large locomotive and a mile-long row of graffiti-covered train cars. In some ways it’s closer to the Rainbow Road level found in almost every version Mario Kart. The FLOAT system relies on unpowered magnetic robots that float over a three-layer flexible film track, NASA said. One of these is a graphite layer that allows the robots, which have no moving parts, to float using diamagnetic levitation. Another is a flex circuit layer that generates the electromagnetic thrust that moves the robots along the tracks. The third is optional: it’s a thin-film solar panel that provides power for a hypothetically nearby moon base.

One of the advantages of this system is that it rolls out; it almost sounds like a big rug. There is no need to prepare the ground, which saves time and leaves the moon’s surface relatively intact, yet a large-scale FLOAT system will be able to move more than 200,000 pounds of payload several miles per day. It will also be completely autonomous, so don’t look for a lunar train conductor job posting on LinkedIn.

Engineers must overcome several hurdles before the FLOAT system becomes a reality. The next step is to design, build and test a subscale prototype and investigate what effect factors such as temperature, radiation and contamination with lunar regolith simulants have on the performance of the system. Production-related questions also need to be answered. You cannot build the FLOAT system with off-the-shelf parts.

The FLOAT system is one of many ideas NASA Selected for Phase II of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) project, whose goal is to encourage the development of new technologies that could lead to breakthroughs in space exploration programs, including ‘Moon to Mars’. Another idea is the pulsed plasma rocket, which could put a man on Mars. According to simulations, the spacecraft can make the journey to Mars in about two months. Alternatively, it is powerful enough to transport heavy spacecraft across the galaxy.

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