Concept Lunar Bucket Wheel Excavator and Lunar Outpost
Real-time collaborative 3D simulation of Concept Lunar Bucket Wheel Excavator and Lunar Outpost.

NASA’s return to the Moon by 2020 calls for sustainable human presence, suggesting that crew will make use of local resources for mission consumables. Generally referred to as In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), lunar regolith may be mined for small scale production of hydrogen, oxygen, water and volatiles. The Colorado School of Mines constructed and tested a prototype Bucket Wheel Excavator (BWE) in 2003. This vehicle is an early prototype of a common mining vehicle adapted for lunar size and power. We created a virtual model of this vehicle, placing it in a simplified simulated regolith environment to prove that a physics-based, force feedback joystick driven virtual vehicle simulation could be delivered to consumer personal computers via the internet.

DigitalSpace and DM3D created a model of the vehicle drive train, bucket wheel operation, limited surface dynamics and dust behavior model and placed the vehicle in a lunar base/ISRU processor setting. DigitalSpace is pursuing this work further by assembling a team of expert advisors and building a collaborative design platform to iterate a dozen or more lunar surface mission vehicles and scenarios. In the years 2006-2007 we plan to host regular telephone conference calls in which participants will operate design concept lunar vehicles and mission scenarios in synchronized real-time 3D environments. Participants will comment on the designs and this commentary will be used to iterate the virtual vehicles. During this period a parallel effort at Colorado School of Mines’ “Project Dust” NASA H&RT research and development effort will create granular materials and dust behavioral simulations that will be used to create a medium fidelity virtual regolith sandbox for this effort.

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Dr. Michael Duke with Colorado School of Mines’ Lunar Bucket Wheel Excavator (R. King, T. Muff, M. Duke). Our reconstruction of the excavator as a virtual vehicle.
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The excavator simulated climbing a radiation-mitigating regolith mound next to a partially buried lunar habitat. Test of virtual lunar excavator at the Colorado School of Mines with consumer laptop and force feedback joystick interface (by Project Dust PI Masami Nakagawa).

Video of Lunar Bucket Wheel Excavator in Action

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