New Laser Powering Moon Rover

  • The ESA project solves an issue of the infinite darkness surrounding the Moon.
  • The project pinpointed the precise location for landing.
  • NASA and Russia both want to set up colonies on the Moon in the near future.

European engineers have proposed a solution that will help the Rover not to loose power in the infinite darkness of the moon’ polar craters. The project is under contract with the European Space Agency, an intergovernmental organization of 22 member states dedicated to the exploration of space. Established in 1975 and headquartered in Paris, ESA has a worldwide staff of about 2,200 in 2018 and an annual budget of about €6.68 billion in 2020.

The project Philip Rover.

The project is dubbed “PHILIP” (Powering rovers by High Intensity Laser Induction on Planets).

There is hope of finding water in those craters. NASA has a new probe to search for water on the moon for future colonization plans. The probe will be part of the Artemis 1 mission scheduled for next year.

The search for water is based on the orbiters. According to that information there is ice in the polar craters of the moon. It is preserved there because the rays of the low circumpolar sun never look into these craters.

The rover can be very useful in finding the ice. However, solar panels will not be a good solution, especially when it is dark. The European engineers believe the solution is to use the decay of radioactive elements. The experts from Italy and Romania suggested an interesting and viable solution.

NASA image of crater Shackleton.

Thus far there is an assumption that the lunar rover with its stationary base station will land in the area where there is no shortage of sunlight. Hence, the infrared laser with a power of 500 watts will come into play. It will irradiate a solar cell onboard a 250-kilogram rover. The guidance system will help the beam follow the device with an accuracy of up to centimeters.

According to the developers ‘ calculations, such a scheme will allow the lunar rover to move away from the base station by nine miles and overcome descents with a slope of up to ten degrees. The same laser beam can also serve as a communication channel for the probe. To do this, it is enough to equip it with a “smart” reflector that sends part of the laser radiation back in the form of a coded message.

However, it would be rash to rely on this connection alone. After all, PHILIP may still lose sight of the base station, and it will urgently have to fix the situation before the batteries run out. Radio communication would be useful to signal the machine to correct its course in such a situation.

The proposed landing location.

The project already pinpointed the precise location, an area of the crater Shackleton at the southernmost pole of the moon.

Shackleton is an impact crater that lies at the south pole of the Moon. The peaks along the crater’s rim are exposed to almost continual sunlight, while the interior is perpetually in shadow (a crater of eternal darkness).

The sun almost never sets here. From this point, the lunar Rover could descend into three small shaded craters, located at a distance of 4.6, 5.7 and 7.1 kilometers.

At this time ESA ha not yet approved the undertaking but the rover could be built in the near future.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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