October 20, 2009--
This moonraker, designed by Paul's Robotics in Worcester, Massachusetts, was awarded first prize in the third annual Regolith Excavation Challenge, held October 18 at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. The remote-controlled robot took home top honors by lifting 965 pounds (437 kilograms) of faux regolith--the fine, powdery lunar topsoil--into a container within 30 minutes.
A testament to tinkerers, the competition recognizes moon-soil excavators that are sturdy enough to scoop pounds of regolith, powerful enough to move across the moon's surface, and light enough to maneuver easily, say organizers at the California Space Authority, the competition's nonprofit sponsor.
Such soil-hauling machines will be needed in the future as humans prepare to build a lunar outpost on the moon
, according to spokesperson Eric Daniels. In addition to helping with construction, astronauts will likely need to excavate regolith to harvest useful materials such as oxygen and hydrogen.
"The hope is that through the excavation designs, someone will strike upon an innovation or new concept that revolutionizes power and energy requirements for excavation," Daniels said.
Photograph courtesy Jamie Foster, California Space Authority