If space travel is to become a long-term reality, sure we’ll need to find a suitable ways to cultivate the places and planets we visit, to mine their soil for nutrients, to find the water hidden in their depths, to generate the air that will make everything else possible.
Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot or RASSOR, for short. The robot (pronounced as “razor”) is an excavator device, designed to skim lunar soil and dump it into a device that would pull water and ice out of the dirt and turn their chemicals into rocket fuel or breathing air for astronauts working on the surface. The device would be part of the lander that carries the RASSOR to the moon’s surface. So the robot would be the feeder for a lunar resource processing plant, a level of industry never before tried anywhere besides Earth.
NASA is envisioning that RASSOR, currently in development in prototype form, the team already is designing RASSOR 2, a prototype that would be much closer to what NASA could launch in the future. It’s expected to begin testing in early 2014. More photo courtesy of NASA below.