JAXA, the Japanese space agency has announced it has plans to build the first functional Lunar base by the year 2020. The moon base has been a dream of science fiction writers for decades now, but Japan says no humans will be at this research lab.
The humanoid robots designed in Japan are some of the most cutting edge advanced on the market today. And yet even these will be dwarfed in ability by what is projected to come in the next ten years. Power systems, articulation, and information processing will allow the robots of the future to be more capable in their environments, require less information to function, and have more advanced automated systems to help them take care of emergency situations should they lose contact with Earth for moments or even days.
One of the most important technologies that will have to be developed in the near future will be power supply and collection. The robots proposed for the Lunar base will largely acquire their electrical power from solar cells, which will feed battery reserves. Because the base will be located at the moon’s North Pole, there will be long periods of sunlight that the robots would be able to take advantage of. Unfortunately, there will also be the prospect of Lunar eclipses for the moon to deal with. Of course the power supplies will have to be substantial enough for them to survive through these periods of darkness. And speaking of times of darkness, it appears the block on robotics that has been plaguing the 21st century is quickly coming to an end. As Japan’s robotics industry booms, for the first time robots are being accepted by the mainstream of society in order to do jobs beyond the assembly line. Already Japan has implemented the use of robots to greet travelers, help around the home, and even perform wedding ceremonies. But will they be able to sustain themselves for long periods of time far from Earth?
The average weight of the robots is projected to be around 660 lbs. Rather than legs which have many moving parts and therefore many opportunities for problems, they will depend upon massive treads that will grip the ground and push them along the Lunar surface. And will humans eventually join their alloy allies? For now there aren’t any concrete plans for humans to inhabit this particular moon base, but the research from the surface of the moon will be of great value to anyone who wishes to consider a long-term stay on the moon’s surface. This would go for Japanese explorers, or those of any nationality.
Recently it was proposed that the pursuit of alloys may be of great interest to space agencies and mining operations in space if specific rare minerals come into great demand and resources on Earth dwindle. An asteroid could potentially contain trillions of dollars worth of natural resources unobtainable on Earth, but in order to pursue this it would require a better understanding of how to extract minerals through robotic means.