NASA is always trying to think of cheaper, more sustainable ways to fuel missions into space, be it to the Moon or much further afield. Think Project Morpheus, a lander prototype using green propellants. Now, NASA has a new robot in development that could one day help sustain missions to the Moon.
RASSOR (pronounced “razor“) is a hard-working mining robot that will dig up lunar soil and mine for minerals that could be used in rocket fuel and air for astronauts. Better still, it'll have enough power to work all day for at least five years.
The robot weighs around 100 pounds, so it's light enough to carry on a rocket but heavy enough to stay grounded in low-gravity environments. It has two rotating "digging bucket drums," with one on each side of its body. They're set up in such a way that as one drum digs, the other provides traction to help stabilize the bot.
RASSOR skims through lunar soil, and then places it into a “hopper,” which filters out water and ice. NASA says that chemicals in the remaining material would be used for fuel or air for astronauts working on the lunar surface. Basically, you have a resource processing plant on the Moon.
At present, RASSOR is only a prototype, and it still has trouble with pebbles and large particles that prevent the gears from moving properly. NASA won't begin field-testing the RASSOR until 2014. Still, NASA hopes that robots like RASSOR will not only prove useful on the Moon, but will also help in the search for water and ice on Mars.
This story, "New NASA robot will tirelessly mine the Moon, give Wall-E some competition" was originally published by TechHive.