NASA creates magnetic levitation train to transport cargo to the Moon

NASA creates magnetic levitation train to transport cargo to the Moon
NASA creates magnetic levitation train to transport cargo to the Moon

When will humans set foot on the Moon again? If the date is not yet known, the tools to get there and to stay there are well and truly in preparation. In fact, NASA is even developing a cargo transportation system designed specifically for the Moon. In a press release published on May 1, the agency responsible for the American space program explains that it wants to build a lunar railway by the 2030s.

Called FLOAT (Flexible levitation on a track), this means of transport will be operated by robots without arms or any mobility. “The FLOAT system uses motorless magnetic robots that levitate above a flexible circuit”, detail NASA engineers. This path, placed on the lunar soil, is therefore composed of three layers. Three different materials to enable magnetic levitation, forward propulsion of robots and solar energy generation.

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FLOAT robots are in no hurry

The innovative nature of this project therefore rests not on the robots, but on the three-layer track. Using levitation to move the robots – which will therefore only serve as cargo ships – minimizes Moon dust emissions and wear and tear on equipment. The flexible side of the circuit will allow the same advantages. Men will only have to unroll this flexible track on the ground for it to be operational. No major construction and therefore no damage.

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The FLOAT system is only intended to transport regolith, the layer of dust that covers bedrock. Humans will in any case go faster than these robots which, in the current state of development, are only designed to move at a speed of 1.61 km/h. But they should be able to transport 90 tonnes of regolith per day.

The return to the Moon is coming soon

This freight system would make it possible to establish a true lunar economy. With the right tools, the exploration of our satellite could be done more quickly and efficiently. A first step towards the permanent installation of men on the Moon, as the United States wishes. But also towards the advanced exploration of the rest of the Solar System, of Mars in the first place.

The FLOAT system is currently far from operational. In any case, NASA still needs to be able to send people back to the Moon. The mission which must achieve this goal, called Artemis III, is planned for 2027 at the latest. As a reminder, no one has set foot on the lunar surface since the Apollo 17 moon landing in 1972.

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