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NASA: Development to come on Mars as plans to build railway station begins

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) intends to construct the first fully operational railway station on the Moon to offer dependable, autonomous, and efficient payload transportation over the lunar surface. However, this train will differ from those we have on Earth.

The technique, also known as Flexible Levitation on a Track (FLOAT), will use magnetic levitation over a three-layer flexible film track. These will be fuelless magnetic robots that levitate over the graphite layer and float idly over rails using diamagnetic levitation.

In contrast to the latest NASA lunar robots with wheels, legs, or tracks, the space company stated that FLOAT robots will be static and will levitate above the track to reduce lunar dust abrasion or wear. In contrast to traditional roads, railways, and cableways, these tracks unroll straight onto the lunar regolith, avoiding major on-site building.

The Float design robots can transport payloads of various forms at 0.5 metres per second, while a large-scale FLOAT system can move up to 1,00,000 kg of regolith multiple miles each day.

In a recent announcement, NASA stated: “FLOAT will operate autonomously in the dusty, inhospitable lunar environment with minimal site preparation, and its network of tracks can be rolled up and reconfigured over time to match evolving lunar base mission requirements.”

As the project proceeds, phase 2 will involve designing, manufacturing, and testing a series of sub-scale robot and track prototypes, peaking in a demonstration in a lunar-analogue testbed and analysing the impact of environmental factors on system performance and lifetime.

“A durable, long-life robotic transport system will be critical to the daily operations of a sustainable lunar base in the 2030’s, as envisioned in the Moon to Mars plan and mission concepts like the Robotic Lunar Surface Operations 2 (RLSO2),” NASA added in its statement.

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