A Great Man Gone

Phase 2: Lunar Robotic Village

In 2010, JPL scientist Leon Alkalai presented a position paper to the Lunar Exploration Architecture Group describing a vision of space exploration that places in its forefront a coordinated and concerted international effort, led by the USA, towards the establishment of a permanent robotic presence on the Moon.  The abstract of this paper is downloadable below.  The content of this page is paraphrased from that report.

Alkalai's vision of the Lunar Robotic Village was as part of a long-term effort to conduct ground-breaking and unique space science investigations coupled with first of a kind robotic demonstrations as precursors to future human expansion.

This concept is central to the idea of the International Lunar Research Park, and was foundational to its inspiration.

The benefits of a Lunar Robotic Village include:

  • Creation of an international testbed for the development and demonstration of advanced mission operation architectures ranging from:
    • human in the loop time-drive or event-driven command sequencing;
    • human in the loop tele-operations;
    • autonomous pre-programmed operations;
    • or self-adapting machine learning systems with human supervisory control.

  • Demonstration of in-situ resource exploration using long-range mobility systems and in-situ measurement devices and instruments.
  • Robotic assembly of complex structures such as human or robotic radiation shelters, human habitats, modular structures, science stations for in-situ whether monitoring, scientific ob-servatories, etc.
  • Bulk regolith movement and transfer using advanced mobility systems.
  • Sample manipulation, transfer and caching using advance robotic arms, end-effectors, sample canisters, etc.
  • The establishment of a central repository of common resources and utility services such as power sources, high-bandwidth telecom downlink, health monitoring, battery servic-ing and replacement, parts scavenging and re-pair using standard interfaces, etc.
The realization of such an international robotic village holds the prospects for galvanizing a new generation of young men and women to excel in math and science

Such a vision can reach across international boundaries to generate international good will by fielding robotic systems designed by multiple nations, universities, high-schools, etc.

Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, it would become a testbed for the demonstration of both robotic and human rated systems and services for the future exploration of more distant destinations such as Mars.

Dr. Alkalai points out that such a vision is consistent with and complementary to the recently announced redirection of the Human Space Flight (HSF) program away from the comfort zone of the Earth-Moon System and towards destinations such as a Near Earth Object (NEO) asteroid, a Lagrange point, or other destinations as stepping stones towards the ultimate human exploration of Mars.

Such a supplement to the proposed vision would send a clear and strong message to the US public and to the world, that, whereas our astronauts are taking on new and more ambitious exploration objectives (40 years after the initial landing on the Moon), our highly intelligent, autonomous and cooperative robotic systems are busy building and assembling an ‘International Robotic Village’ that can host future robots from various international agencies, and also eventually host humans, when and if they chose to return.

The contents of this page were excerpted or paraphrased from Leon Alakalai's presentation to the LEAG 2010 meeting.

Lynn Harper,
Mar 26, 2011, 8:12 AM