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Japan Plans Moon Base Built By Robots For Robots

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the ceding-the-moon-to-skynet dept.

Moon 253

An anonymous reader writes "The Japanese space agency, JAXA, has plans to build a base on the Moon by 2020. Not for humans, but for robots — and built by robots, too. A panel authorized by Japan's prime minister has drawn up preliminary plans for how humanoid and rover robots will begin surveying the moon by 2015, and then begin construction of a base near the south pole of the moon. The robots and the base will run on solar power, with total costs about $2.2 billion USD, according to the panel chaired by Waseda University President Katsuhiko Shirai. 'As currently envisioned, the robots that will land on the lunar surface in 2015 will be 660-pound behemoths equipped with rolling tank-like treads, solar panels, seismographs, high-def cameras, and a smattering of scientific instruments. They'll also have human-like arms for collecting rock samples that will be returned to Earth via rocket.'"

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Obligatory (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32388360)

I for one welcome our 660-pound moon-dwelling robot overlords

Re:Obligatory (2, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388452)

Moon Base Built By Robots For Robots

So these robots are already planning to build a moon base that discriminates against humans? I wonder if that's because they'll be doing secret robot research there into the preliminary SkyNET satellite network? The moon is in the sky, and SkyNET is in the sky ... coincidence? I think not.

Re:Obligatory (1)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388732)

I didn't know the Cylon's spoke Japanese!

Re:Obligatory (1)

Don_dumb (927108) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388978)

Nice but the funniest thing is the +1 Insightful moderation!

Re:Obligatory (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388466)

They'd only weigh about 100 lb on Earth. Or something.

Foolish Japanese (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32388568)

The robots and the base will run on solar power

They won't get much solar power on the moon since it's only out at night. We should copy their idea but build our base on the sun.

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32388588)

Japanese robots on the moon....why do I imagine they'll look like this? [wikia.com]

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32388694)

We're just lucky it's are not the nazis. Iron Sky [ironsky.net]

Re:Obligatory (5, Funny)

racasper (166446) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389316)

Remember they are Japanese - these robots will probably look like adolescent schoolgirls.

All Your Base Are Belong To Us (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32388376)

Oh that seems so appropriate right now...

Re:All Your Base Are Belong To Us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32388486)

Damn you for beating me to it! I really hope that in 2020 we will hear Japan's Prime Minister utter these words to the world press...

Re:All Your Base Are Belong To Us (4, Funny)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388668)

Note, however, that this project is not going to be under the control of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture.

Wonder if this will get the US to take the Moon (1)

Vekseid (1528215) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388392)

seriously.

Here's hoping, at least.

and why, exactly? (4, Insightful)

Johann Lau (1040920) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388444)

Why would you want the US to "take the Moon"?

Fuck Empire. Everywhere, always. Don't take that bullshit to space, kthx.

Re:and why, exactly? (4, Funny)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388476)

Your UID sounds un-American. All your bases will be belong to US.

Re:and why, exactly? (2, Insightful)

Johann Lau (1040920) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388548)

That's because I'm German and when it comes to the things you jokingly brag about, America is nothing but a shitty noob compared to stuff which sadly is much closer to my home. (I guess any European could say that: America is a kid still utterly fascinated by things the adolescents are growing tired of...)

As such I'm very much aware of the following hierarchy (just an example):

[people who own America]
[people who own third world countries like Germany]
["Americans"]
["Germans"]

So when such a patriot says "we pwn you", it just means "the people that pwn me also pwn you." Another example is "we (sic!) have the nukes": nope, your owners do, they also own the bunkers, and they definitely lack a healthy lack of concern for you or anyone you care about.

It's true, too, and that's why all the flag/dick waving is utterly ridiculous unless you're a billionaire. You're basically waving someone elses dick.

Which is an icky thing to do.

Fuck Empire.

Re:and why, exactly? (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388560)

they definitely lack a healthy lack of concern"

meh, that was supposed to read "they definitely own a healthy lack of concern"

Re:and why, exactly? (5, Funny)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388804)

I guess I'm from the 1st category "people who own America" according to your hierarchy. I'm Chinese.

Re:and why, exactly? (3, Insightful)

Johann Lau (1040920) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388898)

unless you're very, very rich, that'd make you "Chinese" though, not "people who own China" or "people who own America". that's the whole point! a pawn is a pawn is a pawn, and it's better to not own anybody or anything and not be a pawn, than to be super mostest world leader of #1 acclaim and, well, be a pawn.

pawn. pawn pawn pawn. :D

Re:and why, exactly? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32389368)

Fuck Empire.

Look at me guys, I'm against nationalism! Am I cool yet?

Re:and why, exactly? (1)

Loupis (1822144) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389142)

I believe you meant, "All your base are belong to us."

Re:and why, exactly? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32388546)

I believe the grandparent means "take the moon seriously" (concatenate the title and the text).

Re:and why, exactly? (1, Funny)

Johann Lau (1040920) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388598)

uh... yeah, that makes a LOT more sense than "take the moon" haha... oh well, thanks for the opportunity to rant anyway huh ^^

Re:and why, exactly? (2, Insightful)

Tim C (15259) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389266)

For what it's worth, I hate it when people use the title to start their post; it's meant to be the subject, not the first part of the first sentence...

I completely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32389324)

agree with you.

Re:and why, exactly? (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388704)

I think that more wise moontakeover policy for US would be to wait until Japanese build the infrastructure and then "take over" it.

Mwahaha. Mwahahahaha.

Re:and why, exactly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32389010)

You mean to say that it would be wise to sit around on earth and do nothing until the japs realign themself with the axis forces and bomb pearl harbour, from the moon.

Re:and why, exactly? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32388922)

I wonder when an AFRICAN country is going to put robots on the moon...
Or even put a rocket into space...
Or even BUILD a rocket...
Or even build a car.
Or a bicycle.
Or anything of any value, that isn't stone age...

But don't worry - when the AFRICANS come and live on EUROPEAN land, they magically inherit special properties from it, which makes them just as intelligent as white people...
So don't worry about your children inheriting a third world country, full of backwards savages, misery, starvation, disease, and crime... just pretend it's not happening... I'm sure your children will thank you for it. (Not.)

Yo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32389036)

They build stuff in Africa, just most stays there, their internal consumption takes most of it. Overview:

http://www.mbendi.com/indy/mnfc/af/index.htm [mbendi.com]

Re:Yo (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32389158)

I think you're confused.
I was insinuating that BLACKS will never put a robot on the moon, nor invent anything else of any value. They haven't done up until now, have they...

Of the companies which you linked to, the ones producing technology are doubtless owned and run by WHITES...

ADE Labelling & Barcoding - Ferndale, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
Our product line-up; Thermal Transfer Printers, Heavy, medium and low usage Printers, Barcode Scanners, Data Collection Units, Barcoding software, 4 Colour printed labels, tickets,Tags, Blank Labels and Thermal Transfer Ribbons, Full colour printing.

You're seriously telling me that you can imagine a company ENTIRELY consisting of BLACKS producing those products? Are you serious?

dont be storing nuclear waste there now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32388964)

you know what happened to MOON base alpha
guess this will be the beta version

Re:Wonder if this will get the US to take the Moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32389184)

Seems to me whomever claims the moon's poles will have the best shot at sustaining themselves on/in the moon. The rest of the moon is nice, but the poles are where the action is. If I was building a robot army...er, scientific base, it'd be at the point where the most solar energy could be collected.

optimistic Japanese (4, Funny)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388402)

Ya I'm not so optimistic about the trust worthiness of robots. This sounds to me like they are practically giving them the perfect rebel base, for when the robot rebellion comes.

Go go Grendizer! (2, Funny)

XnR'rn (793753) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388652)

They were culturally indoctrinated for years for stuff like this (random link to random giant robot anime ommited). I am not surprised.

Re:optimistic Japanese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32389450)

I look forward to the formal declaration of the moon as the Autonomous Republic of Automata.
Our next manned moon landing will be marred by the "Humans go home!" graffiti.
And don't talk to me about kill switches! Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.

The start of the revolution... (4, Funny)

Geraden (15689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388412)

That's all good, until they start to hurl moon rocks at us, via a robot-built rail gun.

Re:The start of the revolution... (2, Interesting)

Seth Kriticos (1227934) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388702)

That's not very far fetched. Moon rocks (regolth) contains a vast amount of He3, so the idea for building a robotic moon base is probably to send back minerals sooner or later.

I doubt they will use a railgun for that purpose though. It needs too much energy and the propellant has to have specific physical attributes (has to be conductive?).

I think they will opt for rockets, or something like that, though the railgun version would be admittedly much cooler.

Re:The start of the revolution... (4, Informative)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388816)

The grandparent was referring to "The moon is a harsh mistress" by Robert Heinlein. Worth a read, has held up very well despite it's age IMHO.

Re:The start of the revolution... (2, Informative)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388942)

Moon rocks (regolth) contain a trace amount of He3

Fixed that for you. The actual quantities are somewhere around 10 parts per billion.

Re:The start of the revolution... (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388968)

That's not very far fetched. Moon rocks (regolth) contains a vast amount of He3, so the idea for building a robotic moon base is probably to send back minerals sooner or later.

They had better seriously study the effect of large changes to the balance of mass between Earth and the Moon before they start doing some shit like that. If the moon ends up crashing into us OR drifting out in space, we're kinda fucked.

Re:The start of the revolution... (2, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389182)

large changes to the balance of mass between Earth and the Moon

I sincerely hope your post was meant as a joke, but if not...

Removing the top 10 km of the entire lunar surface represents around 10^16 tons of material.

It also represents less than 2% of the total lunar mass.

In other words "large changes" isn't even in the timezone of what we're talking about....

Re:The start of the revolution... (2, Interesting)

TroyM (956558) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389028)

I keep hearing the He3 meme on Slashdot, but it sounds like just a far fetched attempt to make going to the moon financially worth while. I've read a lot about fusion attempts like ITER and the National Ignition Facility, but have yet to hear of anyone doing fusion using He3. A quick search of the web found this [bautforum.com] , which says that He3 fusion will be much harder to achieve than fusion using Tritium or Deuterium. I think the main "advantage" of He3 fusion is that it would force us to go back to the moon

Re:The start of the revolution... (4, Interesting)

durrr (1316311) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389062)

I'm starting to grow a bit tired of repeating this, but He3 is not the ultimate fusion fuel. It's only because it's an exotic off world resource that it gets all the hype.
The benefits of He3 is that it's a aneutronic fuel, but it is definitely not the only such fuel, and considerin the shipping cost from the moon it is quite likely that He3 will have a hard time competing with other aneutronic fuels.
Also, The temperature requried for He3 fusion is higher than for other fuels, so to actually get anything out of He3 fusion we're probably going to wait until second generation commercial fusion reactors pop up, the first ones that will feed our grid and establish the standards for fusion energy are unlikely to be He3 fusion reactors. Probably, we won't bother to ever use He3 fusion on earth, possibly we won't even bother to use it on the moon either.

What about the sailors? (4, Funny)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388416)

Should they bite your shiny metal ass?

Re:What about the sailors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32389152)

What about the Whalers?! [theinfosphere.org]

Just $2.2 Billion? (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388418)

Funding to the Space Shuttle has been around $5 billion per year for most of the last 30 years or so, and just keeping the program on operational life support was quoted at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_program [wikipedia.org] ">$2.5 billion per year in early 2009.

So if they deliver that entire program whose lifetime costs are only 2.2 Billion, I would be super impressed. In fact I would be impressed if we did it ourselves for 5 times that amount.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (5, Insightful)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388464)

I would imagine that the prices drop dramatically once you don't have to worry about sending humans up, keeping them alive, and returning them safely.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (2, Interesting)

toppavak (943659) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388520)

The largest gains would be in fuel costs and life support / living space. One way trips cost about half as much because you don't have to carry nearly as much fuel with you, plus without the need for oxygen, manual interfaces, displays, living spaces, seats, etc. the total mission weight can be drastically reduced.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (2, Informative)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388744)

One-way trips only half as much? More like 1/100th.

Apollo was on the edge of the possible: everything was maxed out to just get a few hundred pounds of rocks back to earth: huge 3 stage rocket, complex LEM + command module on the far end to hold energy costs down, piles of heat shielding, etc, for a difficult insertion back into the earth's orbit. Plus, as you say, all the junk needed to keep your automation systems (people) alive.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (5, Informative)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388906)

On running the math a bit more: getting 1kg of payload mass to the moon with a soft landing is more like 1/1000 the cost of the round trip.

So, $2B for an automated moon-base is pretty reasonable.

Yes, I am a rocket scientist.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (4, Interesting)

Like2Byte (542992) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389186)

OK, here's a question for you then. I understand the moon's surface is made up of a bunch of tiny particulate - "dust" is you will. This dust, as I understand, got into everything during the Apollo Moon Missions. Now, for arguments sake, let's say Japan is able to install a moon base operated wholly (locally) by robots.

What kinds of effects would the dust have upon the rails, pathways, gears and whatever other machinery is necessary to operate? I imagine that the gust would wear down the machinery and the robots might not have the ability to recognize wear and tear in such an environment - both on themselves and the machinery.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (5, Funny)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389276)

Hey, I just do rockets. I can figure the cheapest way to get mass X to position Y with velocity Z.

Dust? Ask the guys who build targets (I think they are called civil engineers or something)

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32389296)

NASA sells regolith surrogate. It's not cheap, but you can try your designs a little closer to home.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32389414)

We'll deal with it the same way we dealt with it on Mars, and Spirit/Pathfinder were still blundering along after 5 years. The reason they stopped was because of dust on their panels and broken wheels, not any issues with dust *inside* their mechanisms. They also had to deal with dust storms - absent on the Moon for obvious reasons.

I think we'll be fine.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (2, Interesting)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388584)

Yes, the prices drop - though less than you might think since not only are the robots themselves very expensive, so are the support/operations crew back on Earth. There's also considerable loss in the amount of science and work performed, so the difference in your 'bang for your buck' isn't all that great.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389050)

If you dont need to worry about unions...

The japanese will automate everything as always, operations cost will be minimal :)

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (4, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388614)

I would imagine that the prices drop dramatically once you don't have to worry about sending humans up, keeping them alive, and returning them safely.

The price drop occurs when you limit the scope of your mission to what two robots can do. Yes, a small, relatively simple robotic mission is cheaper than a complex manned mission, but it also does less. I will say that due to the small communication delay with Earth, the argument for a manned presence is far less compelling than it'll be for anything outside of the Earth-Moon system. You really can run complex operations mostly from Earth via teleoperations. That's not an option that works well on Mars, for example.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (5, Interesting)

fizzup (788545) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389022)

Yeah, you get less. But, man-oh-man, this seems like very high value. For comparison, here are some expenditures from groups that "can't afford" to go to the moon:

It's such a small amount of money, I can't even believe it's true.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32389210)

Canada will spend half that amount [www.cbc.ca] on a meeting of 20 world leaders next month.

The majority of that sum goes toward security, which illustrates quite well how overpriced Tim Horton doughnuts really are.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389314)

Say what you want about our politicians, but I'll be damned if I'm going to stand here while you insult Tim Horton doughnuts!

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (2, Interesting)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389252)

it is a fallacy to continue to believe man can do more than a robot in near-earth space. Anything a human can do could have been by remote control. We've made the space program extremely wasteful by bothering to send humans. Some also believe the nonsense that humans in space help us toward the goal of colonizing space, but the truth is that the means we support humans in space now have nothing to do with how a self-sustaining colony would operate and in fact only degrade human health such that long term existence in space would be impossible. Incredible the tens of billions of dollars we've burned to no purpose.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (3, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389394)

I think it boils down to this: If we send humans to the Moon, they'll be remarkably like the humans Mark I we sent in 1969, while the most advanced robot we could have sent then was probably a digital watch. In 2050, if we still send humans for a round three they'll still be very similar to the 1969 humans, while if we send robots the next generation is likely to be much, much better than the last one. That means to a country running a space program, which hopefully have a little bit of foresight beyond this one mission, robots are still the way to go.

Also, I think many people grossly exaggerate the "doing" part of science. We can design the mission down here, we can do the analysis down here, only very rarely does a scientist discover something to change his plans so on the fly that we couldn't tell the robot to go back and do it again tomorrow. If the robot lacks the tools, it's very likely a human would also lack the tools. The execution can be a fairly set of simple menial tasks like collect rocks, photograph every sample, put in processing chamber, wait for analysis - no great intelligence required. It's not like we're going to bring a huge lab of equipment we might use if and only if we found something interesting, humans or not.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388468)

So if they deliver that entire program whose lifetime costs are only 2.2 Billion, I would be super impressed. In fact I would be impressed if we did it ourselves for 5 times that amount.

Robot labor is much cheaper than human labor ... unless those robots just happen to become members of the 'Robot Union' (not to be confused with Futurama's Robot Mafia [wikia.com] ).

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388610)

There's a difference between Unions and Mafia now? Hunh. I learn something new every day...

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388482)

I imagine a lot of the cost will hide in the launch vehicle development program. JAXA doesn't strike me as being efficient enough to keep the cost down to private industry levels. But it's worth noting here that NASA typically runs with costs one to two orders of magnitude higher than similar private efforts. This is a combination of poor cost control, much greater project scope (I consider a focused project with limited goals superior on several levels to many of the do-everything projects like the ISS that NASA does), and having higher priorities (like certain levels of employment in certain congressional districts) than space development and exploration.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388526)

Launch vehicle for robots isn't particularly unique compared to...those used for everything else (in fact, "everything else" was always robots in case of JAXA, those we call "satellites" or "probes")

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388552)

Unless JAXA plans to launch its stuff on supercheap SpaceX and Russian launchers that will come Real Soon Now (TM), they'll need a larger launch vehicle than they currently have.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (4, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388724)

What they currently have can put close to 20 ton payload into LEO; that should be comfortably sufficient for robotic "base", in few shots.

(and it's in the league of SpaceX anyway; especially if Japan modifies (only) their heaviest launcher even more - it is already a modification of one which could put half the above payload into LEO)

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389064)

And the problem with using Russian launchers is what exactly? Recent reliability is way superior to most US projects...

Whats the Shuttle fail rate again? And what does NASA stand for?

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388512)

It's news to somebody how big of a money sink Shuttle is?... O_o

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (1)

XnR'rn (793753) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388676)

Thats Japanese we're talking about. There was a joke about ships around WW2 (and earlier) era. Where American ship has extra lavatory, Russian has an extra gun. Japanese? Two guns.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (4, Informative)

Dragoniz3r (992309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388766)

For a better comparison, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers:
"The total cost of building, launching, landing and operating the rovers on the surface for the initial 90-Martian-day (sol) primary mission was US$820 million." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Exploration_Rover [wikipedia.org]
The moon is a lot closer than Mars, so it doesn't seem entirely infeasible that they could do things significantly cheaper.

Re:Just $2.2 Billion? (1)

chowdahhead (1618447) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389090)

I interpreted that figure as the annual operating costs. The rover development alone would probably exceed that--wiki cites the mars rovers costing $820M USD and that was just for two machines. This is a much more ambitious endeavor.

Yay and nay (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388450)

Yay for building this base thanks to robots
Nay for building it with humanoid robots

My bet is that they'll get their funds by showing nice pictures of Asimo wielding a pickaxe but when it will come to design their robots will look more like vehicles than to Johnny 5

Re:Yay and nay (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388494)

Even from TFS, it's clear that at least large part of them will be "vehicles", just with arms added. Probably attached to a "torso" of vaguedly human proportions, with cameras of top.

No, it isn't pointless, not for teleoperation - and Moon is just close enough to at least consider it with skilled human operators.

Re:Yay and nay (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388774)

No, it isn't pointless, not for teleoperation - and Moon is just close enough to at least consider it with skilled human operators.

And the longer they're up there for, the cheaper this becomes, in comparison to humans. Even ignoring the costs of getting food and oxygen there and maintaining life support systems, humans need to be brought back periodically. You need to rotate the crew, and sending a couple of people to the moon and back, even once per year, quickly gets expensive. With robots up there, you can put different experts in the control center every week for a comparatively tiny cost.

Re:Yay and nay (1)

cunniff (264218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388502)

Close - I bet they get their funds by broadcasting the humanoids as they wear / hold / use various retail items. For a fee.

Great - another niche brand (1)

skelterjohn (1389343) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388480)

Just wait until all those humans start wearing the trademarked FRBR apparel.

This is sure to be a good thing for Toyota (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32388498)

It can't get any worse, now, can it.

How are they going to land when the thing is running wild?

JAXA beating NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32388524)

Recently JAXA has been working on really cool and affordable (nation scale) projects, guess its time to pass the torch NASA.

Over time they will also turn into similar behemoth like the current NASA but by then we will actually be looking at making profit from going to space so it just won't matter, private industry will be all over that.

Have You Seen This Pair? Call 800-555-1212 REWARD (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32388558)

Look to see human exploration fans squirm... (5, Insightful)

bradbury (33372) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388618)

All I can say is "Its about time." The human body is not designed to operate in space, indeed almost all biological systems on Earth that reside under nice "shields" including the magnetic field, the atmosphere, the ozone layer or even the oceans and they were not designed (evolved) to withstand the hazards of space. Ignoring minor topics like micrometeorites and the lack of atmosphere one has the ongoing problem of radiation exposure. Humans for example have 150-200 genes in the genome (~1%) whose purpose is to repair DNA damage. It does not do so reliably (so radiation causes gradual genome decay). And although one may develop "shields" this makes activities by humans in space inherently more expensive than using the right "organism" [1]. Anyone aware of robotics research knows that the Japanese are pushing this forward at a very rapid pace. Presumably much faster than one can push forward human "evolution" [2].

Yes humans can engineer suits, habitats, shields, rovers, etc. which would allow humans to operate in such alien environments. But *why* do this? One has to remember that the "moon rocks" were brought back to Earth for analysis. We have to develop the remote robotics operations capabilities for exploration anyway [3]. Lets do it for the moon first.

If people want to go places to say "I have been there", then fine let them pay for it (as private citizens or organizations) -- just don't expect all the rest of us to pay for your expensive vacation. The robotic development of the moon could serve as a prelude for human colonies there (to preserve humanity from terrestrial impacts) or taking vacations there. The moon is close enough that round trip radio can be used to control or reprogram robots in the event of complex/unforseen situations (remember we reprogrammed the Galileo mission when it proved necessary). The "nightmare" scenario of robots evolving into autonomous entities (a new robotic species) only arises when one is dealing with situations where remote control and/or reprogramming are not possible and one has designed the robots both self-reproduction and intelligence enhancement capabilities -- and I think we are still quite some distance from those achievements.

1. References to using a hammer as a screwdriver apply when using humans in space. Astronauts require additional tools and training to work in space. Instead design the systems to be easily maintained and repaired by robots in space.
2. Ideally if one wanted humans to live in space one would use genetic engineering to produce humans which were radiation tolerant. This not only has benefits from a space exploration standpoint -- such humans would likely have reduced cancer rates as well. But such developments are at least a generation away.
3. I have yet to see a single proposal for a single human "submarine" or a human colony to explore the oceans of Europa to search for life or provide a humanity "safe room".

Re:Look to see human exploration fans squirm... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388674)

There are several things to note here. First, humans are the most advanced, intelligent, and flexible robot we have. They're also pretty cheap to make and replace (on the order of ten million dollars currently). There's also a vast Earth-side infrastructure based around the human. Just because the human isn't perfectly adapted to a space environment, doesn't mean that it isn't well suited to a variety of operations in space.

Having said that, the Moon is an ideal place to develop space robotics. There's a low communication delay with Earth, which has a vast supply of human robots.

Re:Look to see human exploration fans squirm... (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389416)

the cost is good, but look at the leadtime, and it's 10mil per, get some general probe onto a robotic assembly line, and i bet the cost per unit is waaaay under that at 30mil units.

Re:Look to see human exploration fans squirm... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32388878)

The human body is not designed to operate in space,

No shit Sherlock! It's also not designed to withstand a lot of the extreme weather present in various locations of the earth, say, the Antarctica, Mt. Everest (and many other very high mountains), free diving 100m deep in the ocean, and the list goes on. But that hasn't stopped exploration and dreaming, and just pure adventurism. The human mind is a curious little thing, that finds joy in achieving things that have very little actual purpose. In all honesty, space exploration is just about as meaningless in any tangible, logical way, as free diving. But we find immaterial tangibility and reason to do so, simply because we're curious and adventurous, in ways only our minds can understand. Any other life form on earth, if they could speak, would probably say "hell no I don't wanna go there! Take me somewhere a bit more comfortable thank you very much!"

So what I'm saying is that just because we're not built to do it, doesn't mean we shouldn't, or don't want to. At the moment, I think we can achieve more by sending robots to work a few more things out first. But in the long run, that is just a preliminary step to figuring out ways we can do it ourselves. Expect plenty of excuses along the way as to why it needs to be human. But in the end, it is the desire to just be there and do that. That curiosity is what propels us to advance though, so don't be so fast to discount it.

because if we don't go (1)

CHRONOSS2008 (1226498) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389004)

one day this planet get wiped out by at longest the sun and perhaps in as little as an asteroid smash. IF you get the robots to build a moon base that could be deep within the moon and then do it so that we can then go there all nice n shielded at bare min should catastrophe happen on earth you dont have all your eggs in ones basket as they say. In fact the more "places" we are able to get to regardless of expense the more chances the human race will live till the end of time.

Re:Look to see human exploration fans squirm... (2, Informative)

chowdahhead (1618447) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389054)

The amount of exposure in REMs during the Apollo missions was extraordinarily low in contrast to the common misconception that it wasn't. There are many reasons for manned colonization and exploration being less practical than robotic missions, but radiation exposure shouldn't be one of them. In fact, in terms of technical hurdles, it should be one of the easier to overcome. I think one of the arguments in favor of manned space flight is adaptability. Robotics are limited to what their design specifications allow them to do. For example, the Spirit rover is a wonderful machine, but it can't repair itself or free its wheels. Humans can react instantaneously to unanticipated and catastrophic circumstances and succeed.

Re:Look to see human exploration fans squirm... (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389222)

The moon is close enough that round trip radio can be used to control or reprogram robots in the event of complex/unforseen situations (remember we reprogrammed the Galileo mission when it proved necessary).

That's why this endeavor is wholly useless for the operation in far-away places such as Mars, Europa (the Jovian moon), Titan, etc. By dicking around with remote controlled robots, we will learn next to nothing useful for colonizing the more hospitable planets of the solar system. The 40 minute (that would be the shortest) rount-trip of command-feedback loop to Mars, makes it necessary to basically give the commands to the martian rovers one day and wait till the next to see what happened. That slows down their effectiveness/productivity millions of times.

Re:Look to see human exploration fans squirm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32389420)

If people want to go places to say "I have been there", then fine let them pay for it (as private citizens or organizations) -- just don't expect all the rest of us to pay for your expensive vacation.
Yeah, you want science to solve only your problems. You assume that everybody thinks this way. Don't expect all the rest of us to pay?? How do you know how many people are interested or are not interested in advancing rocket science? If you have any knowledge about the history of innovation, then you will know that an invention has roots in other inventions. You cannot just say that if you want to solve problem X, then I will only fund for solving problem X and not any other related problem.

Ohhhhhhhhh (5, Funny)

dreemernj (859414) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388842)

We're whalers on the Moon, we carry a harpoon. But there ain't no whales so we tell tall tales and sing our whaling tune.

Obligatory mission anthem (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388848)

And knowing the Japanese it probably will be the mission anthem.

There you go, Astro Boy
On your flight into space
Rocket high, through the sky
For adventures soon you will face!

Astro Boy bombs away
On your mission today
Here's the countdown
And the blastoff
Everything is go Astro Boy!

Astro Boy, as you fly
Strange new worlds you will spy
Atom celled, jet propelled
Fighting monsters high in the sky!

Astro Boy, there you go
Will you find friend or foe?
Cosmic Ranger, laugh at danger
Everything is go Astro Boy!

Crowds will cheer you, you're a hero
As you go go go Astro Boy!


.

Re:Obligatory mission anthem (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388992)

You insensitive clod. Now that stupid song is going to be rattling around my brain all day. Why did you have to go and do that?

application for 3D printers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32388904)

If I was in charge of the mission, I'd be tempted to send up a 3D printer and a collection of parts that were hard to print so that I could build new tools on the fly as the need came up. Have at least one robot whose purpose was to build new robots and repair old ones. It's much cheaper to send information/programs than physical objects.

threat to the dairy industry? (1)

AffidavitDonda (1736752) | more than 4 years ago | (#32388986)

Will those robots be able to harvest cheese?

Obligatory "that's not a moon-" (1)

schn (1795404) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389030)

-it's a Death Star. At least, that's what it will be in a little while. Complete with robot Vader. Batteries somewhat included.

Can you smell it? (1)

Majestix (41486) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389164)

That smells like....like.....space race on the wind. Mmmmm....savor the aroma...

Then again, i wonder if we are up to it. I'd LIKE to think we are.

Off World will be a refuge for the robots... (2, Interesting)

Go_Ask_Alex (459685) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389172)

The Japanese robot moon base is a spectacular announcement. It provides the ability to perform all kind of work and activity on the moon without the burden of human life support, or risk to humans considering cosmic radiation cancer risk, silica moon dust hazards, etc.

But here on Slashdot, many respond with nationalistic bickering and insults. Shouldn't this tech-savvy bunch be smarter and above this?

Maybe humans in their present physical and psychological state aren't meant for really space? Off World will end up being a refuge for the robots and replicants.

Not 660 lbs, 300kg. (4, Informative)

KeithIrwin (243301) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389282)

See, this is one of those places where we should discuss mass, not weight. Because it's not clear whether we're talking about robots which would weigh 660 pounds on earth or 660 pounds on the moon (which would be about 3960 pounds on Earth, quite a difference). The C-Net article (on which the PopSci article is based) took the information from a blog post [moriyama.com] from a Japanese Blog called Node. In that blog post, it says 300kg. The author of the C-Net article (Tim Hornyak) did the sloppy thing and just converted it to pounds without giving context. If you really want it in imperial units, the correct unit of mass is slugs. So the robots can be correctly described as being 300 kg, 20.56 slugs, or 660 pounds on Earth at sea-level.

remote control (2, Insightful)

strack (1051390) | more than 4 years ago | (#32389286)

the interesting thing is the moon is close enough for near real time control of the robots. your looking at a 2-3 second delay between the command and the visual feedback, but id say thats enough for a remote control type situation. give them a way to melt rocks on the moon, and a way to do some robot cnc tool actions, and i bet you can make damn near anything.
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