This Roving Robot Makes Its Own Martian Landing Pad

Robots will soon be heading into space before us in order to feel things out, prepare living spaces, and set up booze delivery services. But first we have to land on the planet in question which is where PISCES Helelani shines.

This rover is designed to land on a planet and prepare a surface for future rockets to alight. The rover, which includes a shovel and robotic arm, can clear a patch of land for a vertical take-off and landing craft and may even be able to make lunar concrete.

From the project site:

The Lunar Concrete Project aims to create a sustainable alternative to traditional concrete using volcanic basalt. By using locally-sourced basalt fines, PISCES hopes to reduce the environmental impacts associated with cement production. It is estimated that 5-7% of global CO2 emissions are a result of making cement. In addition, Hawaii pays a premium for cement and imports over 300,000 metric tons per year to meet demand. This represents a large economic, environmental, and social cost to the State of Hawaii.

The Helelani is part of NASA’s Additive Construction with Mobile Emplacement (ACME) project, an effort to make planetary surfaces ready for real human habitation. Because lunar dust is so nasty – it’s abrasive and sticks to everything – the rover can prepare a safe and non-dusty spot for ships and even start building small structures using materials brought with the rover or made on the planet itself.

The rover is controlled from “Earth” right now – there’s a person in a tent next to the rover – but in the future these ACME robots could work like Doozers on planets far away, preparing our Bucky Domes for habitation and installing Chick-Fil-A from here to the Betelgeuse nebula. Until then, however, we still have to figure out how to automate the process and allow them to manufacture landing pads as efficiently as possible… no small feat.

via Spectrum