Previous: How Doctors on Earth Stopped a Medical Emergency in Space
Next: Get Ready for a New Star in the Night Sky! | SciShow News



View count:98,670
Last sync:2020-11-24 11:15
Fasthosts Techie Test competition is now closed! Learn more about Fasthosts here:

To live on the Moon, we’ll need to do things we’ve never done before and overcome challenges we’ve never faced. Luckily for us, NASA is developing some brand-new technology at Swamp Works.

Hosted by: Caitlin Hofmeister

SciShow has a spinoff podcast! It's called SciShow Tangents. Check it out at
Support SciShow by becoming a patron on Patreon:
Huge thanks go to the following Patreon supporters for helping us keep SciShow free for everyone forever:

Kevin Carpentier, Eric Jensen, Matt Curls, Sam Buck, Christopher R Boucher, Avi Yashchin, Adam Brainard, Greg, Alex Hackman, Sam Lutfi, D.A. Noe, Piya Shedden, KatieMarie Magnone, Scott Satovsky Jr, Charles Southerland, Patrick D. Ashmore, charles george, Kevin Bealer, Chris Peters
Like SciShow? Want to help support us, and also get things to put on your walls, cover your torso and hold your liquids? Check out our awesome products over at DFTBA Records:
Looking for SciShow elsewhere on the internet?

Correspondence with Swamp Works’s Jason Schuler

Today's sponsor Fasthosts asked SciShow to write a question for their Techie Test!

If you're based in the UK and know the answer, you have the chance to win 2 tickets to South by Southwest, including flights and accommodation. Stay tuned for the full video to learn more. [♪ INTRO].

In 2019, NASA announced they were working to go back to the Moon, but this time, to stay. And that's really exciting! Except... to live on the Moon, we'll need to do things we've never done before and overcome challenges we've never faced.

And to do that, we'll need some brand-new technology. Luckily for us, NASA has a place right here on Earth, in the marshes of Florida where they're preparing for that future. And it's called Swamp Works.

And here, science moves fast. Because even though Swamp Works is part of a government organization, they have an extremely collaborative approach. So ideas can be developed, tested, and improved on quickly.

Swamp Works's main goal is to develop tech that will support astronauts on long missions to the Moon and, eventually, Mars. And since they were established in 2013, they've made a lot of progress. Swamp Works follows the ethos of the Skunk Works innovation lab at Lockheed Martin, which has been around since the 1940s.

The work there gave rise to some of the most-effective stealth and recon aircraft, like the Blackbird and the Nighthawk. And NASA is hoping to achieve the same kind of innovation and success. At first glance, this place looks like a Disneyland for engineers.

It's packed with cool tech, exciting projects, and the best sandbox you've ever seen. Seriously. Swamp Works has a massive, climate-controlled testbed of synthetic lunar soil, about 110 metric tons of it.

But it's not for playing around. It helps teams quickly design, build, test, and improve prototypes, and it lets them immediately see what works in real-world settings. One project that's benefited from this is RASSOR, or the Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot.

NASA, you're so good at acronyms. It's designed to help tackle one of the biggest challenges in space exploration: the fact that shipping stuff is expensive. These days, to send one kilogram to the Moon's surface, it costs around a million dollars.

So packing things like machinery and building materials would add up to making long missions prohibitively expensive. One possible solution is not to take these things, but to make them using dust, or regolith, from the lunar surface. A lot of scientists have thrown around this idea, but Swamp Works is trying to make it a reality.

And RASSOR will play a big part in that. Until now, rovers have mainly been scientific samplers, only able to collect small amounts of rock and soil. They haven't been made to do serious digging on extraterrestrial surfaces.

But RASSOR will. This isn't as simple as it sounds, though. You can't just send a backhoe to the Moon and call it a day.

The lower gravity there means everything has a lower weight, so construction equipment has lower traction. Also, whatever you're digging is more likely to go flying around all over the place. RASSOR gets around this by using two sets of toothed drums as digging buckets.

These drums rotate in opposite directions, so they cancel out any horizontal forces the robot generates while digging. They also allow RASSOR to dig, store, and transport about 90 kilograms of regolith at one time. So far, tests on RASSOR prototypes are going well.

The next steps are to test them in lower gravity, to see how they fare digging regolith and ice of different consistencies. So someday, this robot could be carrying huge amounts of regolith across the Moon or even Mars, helping us collect the materials we need. Now, even if digging works perfectly, there are other challenges to overcome on the Moon, like dealing with the dust itself.

Lunar dust is worse than glitter. It's very fine, so it gets everywhere. It's electrostatically charged, too, like a balloon rubbed on a sweater, so it likes to stick to stuff.

And! Since it's made of crushed volcanic rock, it's very abrasive, and can be hard on equipment. In fact, dust was responsible for many problems on the Apollo missions, from inaccurate sensor readings to imperfect seals.

So Swamp Works is developing a dust shield like nothing we've ever seen before. It's called an electrodynamic dust shield, or EDS for short. It uses transparent electrodes to run a weak electric current in a wave across a machine's surface.

The wave pushes the dust away, stopping it from sticking. And tests have also shown that switching it on, on an already dusty surface, will remove 99% of what's stuck. Swamp Works scientists envision EDS being used on visors, windows, solar panels, instruments, and even spacesuits.

So it could be a huge help. The prototype was sent to the International Space Station for a year of testing in April 2019, so at the time we're filming this video, we don't yet have final results. But if all goes well, the next step will be to integrate EDS into robots like RASSOR and other tech that will be exposed to lunar dust.

So, let's say you've got a digging robot and a way to keep your equipment free from lunar dust. Now, you just have to figure out how to build stuff. And Swamp Works is investigating that, too.

They're developing what they call the Zero Launch Mass 3-D Print Head, which will be able to build entire structures from scratch, without any materials shipped from Earth. The print head takes volcanic material from regolith and combines it with a custom polymer to make a sticky concrete. Then, once it's given instructions, it can 3-D print materials like similar printers on Earth.

So far, Swamp Works has used simulated lunar regolith to build beams and domes. So things are looking promising! But there's still plenty of work to do, like refining the concrete's consistency, and improving the function of the print head itself.

Still, this tool, along with RASSOR, EDS, and other Swamp Works tech, is helping us leap toward a new relationship with space. It's helping us transition from exploration to habitation, and from research to practical engineering. So in time, the results are sure to be groundbreaking.

Literally, in RASSOR's case! Thanks to Fasthosts for sponsoring this video. Fasthosts is a web hosting company based in the UK, and their goal is to support UK business and entrepreneurs at all levels with a range of web hosting products and services.

If you're just getting started, registration is easy. You can choose from a huge range of domains, and you'll get a personalized email along with it. Fasthosts also uses cloud services so you can scale your site as your demand goes up.

Fasthosts wants to support all kinds of entrepreneurs so they asked SciShow to come up with a Techie Test. If you're based in the UK and know the answer, you have the chance to win two tickets to South by Southwest (SXSW), including flights and accommodation. Our Techie Test question is:.

What is the name of the world's first commercially-available video game? If you know the answer, click the link in the description to enter. As always, thanks for watching SciShow Space. [♪ OUTRO].