A classic Big Dumb Object is discussed in Short Sharp Science: a space elevator combined with a maglev launcher to propel prospective lunar colonists into orbit:
The lunar elevator doesn’t actually reach the regolith. Instead, the elevator ribbon ends 10 kilometres shy of the lunar surface so that no lunar mountain peaks hit the end, or terminus, of the orbiting elevator.
So how do astronauts make that 10 km jump to the elevator’s dangling tail? Easy: as the terminus passes overhead, they are fired in a magnetically levitated train along a track that’s been laid across the lunar plain and which gradually eases upwards to become vertical.
If they are fired at just the right time – and I wouldn’t like to be the person specifying or writing the software to do that, they are caught by some kind of robotic grappler at the terminus, which attaches the train to the ribbon.
[image from Hamed Saber on flickr]
My last couple of posts have been about nanotechnology, so naturally this time around it was an item on something very large that caught my eye (Via NewScientist Space):
NASA engineers are testing out a giant, six-legged robot that could pick up and move a future Moon base thousands of kilometres across the lunar surface, allowing astronauts to explore much more than just the area around their landing site.
ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer–is there, like a whole department at NASA dedicated just to coming up with acronyms?) would be about 7.5 metres wide, with legs more than 6 metres long. Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, are now testing two small-scale prototype.
Check out the video of ATHLETE lowering itself, video of ATHLETE walking and driving, and video of two ATHLETE robots lifting a mock lunar module off its mount).