Goals and Requirements for Scientific Lunar Rovers

by Charles Meyer, NASA Johnson Space Cent, Houston, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Robotics for Challenging Environments


The detailed science requirements for future lunar rovers should, of course, be based on achievable science goals and objectives. It is clear that lunar geoscience will benefit by robotic field geologists (instrumented lunar rovers) that can be teleoperated from a science support room on Earth. Multiple light-weight CCD-based camera systems are required to determine site geology and help select typical samples for detailed study. Analytical instrumentation should measure the maturity of soils and the chemical composition and mineralogy of soils and fresh surfaces of rock samples. Elemental and mineralogical analyses are required for hundreds of samples, including rock fragments, collected over a distance of hundreds of kilometers. Manipulator arms are needed to deploy small close-up cameras and light-weight instruments (such as alpha backscatter spectrometers, which serve as `stethoscopes') to the rock clasts in lunar boulders. The arms would also be useful to deploy and align geophysical stations. The development of dexterous robotic arms and tactile hands will also lead to the ability to pick up and return samples to an eventual sample return vehicle. The final rover design should be determined by the exact set of instruments that are finally chosen to accomplish the measurement requirements. Geologic field work depends on the power of observation and interpretive skill of experienced geologists who have a keen sense of what they are looking for. This experience will be provided by the science support team who will teleoperate the rover from Earth. Teleoperated robotic field geologists (rovers) will allow the science team to select the best samples for analysis and make `discoveries' utilizing a wide range of sensory data collected by electronic eyes and sophisticated scientific instrumentation.

Subject Headings: Geology | Aircraft and spacecraft | Automation and robotics | Instrumentation | Data analysis | Vehicles | Traffic engineering

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