The CSIRO has created a lunar testbed facility for researchers and businesses to test their technologies before heading to the real Moon.
The In-situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) Facility is owned and operated by the CSIRO in Brisbane. The testbed facility is an attempted recreation of the conditions of the Moon, featuring a similar fine, abrasive dust to what you’ll find on the lunar surface.
Such conditions are important to keep in mind when you’re considering sending a piece of expensive technology to the Moon. Realistically, the Moon is similar to a desert with its harsh conditions, so scientists, researchers and businesses need to figure out ways to best prepare for those challenges.
That dust is a pretty essential thing to understand when you’re heading to the Moon and shouldn’t be understated. It can get caught in gears and inside circuit boards, so moon technology needs to be strong enough to resist and traverse it. You can see why the CSIRO would be interested in a space robot testing facility.
“The challenge is the Moon dust is powdery, sharp and electrostatically charged so it sticks to everything and has the potential to damage the technology sent to investigate it,” says Dr. Jonathon Ralston, the ISRU project leader.
“Our facility offers technology developers the opportunity to test their equipment closer to home, in a safe environment to find solutions to this dusty problem.”
There are also small-scale pits to test your moon tech at the facility, along with a mission control room, from where you can monitor the rover. The facility itself is a terrific place for Australia’s space sector to prepare for missions.
“Our ability to simulate the lunar terrain at this scale is an exciting advancement for the development of space technology in Australia,” says Dr. Kimberley Clayfield, the CSIRO space program director.
“We’re looking forward to working with researchers and businesses from across the space sector to test their technology and systems for future space missions.”
With Elon Musk talking about setting up a Moon base (that dream could be over soon) and Blue Origin offering commercial space flights, it’s looking likely that businesses will start taking up opportunities like this.
It’s the latest development in the Australian space story. While we’ll likely not be going to the Moon anytime soon with a fully government-funded rocket, it looks like Australia is shaping up to provide some essential services to the space industry. Hell, we’ve been pretty essential to the space race in the past (see: The Dish).
The CSIRO ISRU Facility is located at the CSIRO Queensland Centre for Advanced Technologies, just in case you were looking to test a space robot anytime soon. It’s open from today.