Robot train flying on the moon? NASA has a strange plan

NASA has some really thoughtful plans, and I mean that in the best possible way. Despite facing some major delays for its upcoming Artemis missions, which will see humanity return to the Moon for the first time in 50 years, NASA has also shared a surprising plan to build a flying robot train that looks just like . Science fiction novel.

The Flexible Levitation on Track (FLOAT) project may sound too crazy to be true, but NASA has actually released some very detailed plans about the entire process. It is part of NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts Program (NIAC), which aims to develop “science fiction-like” projects for future space exploration.

I think they're really hitting the mark in this case too, as the FLOAT project would essentially allow flying robot trains to run across the surface of the Moon to help transport supplies. And NASA hopes to accomplish this by the 2030s at the earliest.

NASA's flying robot train concept on the moon
The concept of a flying robot train that NASA wants to build on the Moon. Image source: Ethan Sklar/NASA

Ethan Sklar, a robotics engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), writes that the agency wants to build “the first lunar railway system, which will provide reliable, autonomous and efficient payload transportation to the Moon.” Sklar also says that such a design would likely be “critical to the daily operation of a permanent lunar base in the 2030s.”

It's certainly an exciting idea, even if the idea of ​​a flying robot train running across the surface of the Moon seems a bit much, given that we haven't even put human shoes back on the surface yet. But, it is also good to see that NASA is always looking towards the future and trying to find new projects to work on that could possibly make things easier for space explorers one day.

There are many obstacles to consider when someone like NASA wants to build a lunar base station. But, there's also no denying how useful an autonomous train would be for moving materials around from different locations. Of course, FLOAT isn't quite ready to become the next high-speed train.

The robots will carry carts that move at speeds of about 1MP, and the agency plans to be able to carry about 100 tons (90 metric tons) of material each day to and from NASA's future moon base. Of course, we still have to get all the materials to build a flying robot train on the moon. But I think that's a problem for JPL to figure out later when the project actually becomes more realistic.

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