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COLDArm Will Bring Advanced Robotic Engineering To The Moon

(Pasadena, California – May 24, 2021)

To conclude our series on robotic arms for every mission, let’s turn from Mars to the Moon.

In Greek mythology, Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and the twin sister of Apollo. Artemis is the Goddess of the Wilderness, Goddess of the Hunt, and Goddess of the Moon.

NASA’s Artemis program, named for the lunar goddess, aims to send robotic landers and rovers to the Moon in 2022. In 2024, astronauts will be sent to continue the mission. In ten years, the plan is to establish a long-term human presence on the Moon. The success of the early robotics-led Artemis missions will facilitate the safe arrival of astronauts in a few years – humankind’s first steps toward settlement.


Locating Water On The Moon

Long-term human presence on the Moon will require sustainable access to subterranean lunar water. The site of any future lunar base will be determined, in part, by its proximity to craters containing reservoirs of water ice. Access to direct sunlight – for climate stability and a source of solar power – will be another consideration.

Before a habitable base can be built, astronauts must first explore regional crater depths, to locate the ice – presumed to be preserved in permanent darkness. The feasibility of water extraction will increase the possibility for long-term lunar habitation.


The Engineering Behind Artemis

Early Artemis missions, delivering exploration and settlement equipment to the surface of the Moon, will lay the groundwork for astronaut arrival in 2024. NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative forges partnerships with scientists and engineers to develop and build equipment for the program. Motiv Space Systems, in collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), created the Cold Operable Lunar Deployable Arm (COLDArm) for use during Artemis missions.

Engineered to function without heating or insulation at temperatures as low as -180°C, the robotic COLDArm is built with lubricant-free mechanical components, including bulk metallic glass gears. The arm’s electronics remain operable at cryogenic temperatures.

To complete a wide range of tasks in the freezing lunar climate, the adaptable COLDArm can be fitted for use on rovers and landing equipment components. Because COLDArm doesn’t require external heating systems in order to function in extreme cold, power consumption is reduced during rover operations – allowing longer, more productive missions.


Robots Working In Tandem With Humans

COLDArm’s ability to withstand extreme cold without freezing up makes it unique among robotic equipment engineered for use in space. The technology behind COLDArm is part of a broader system of space mission planning and development. In time, robots will work alongside humans, performing a variety of tasks (transport, construction, maintenance), to build a lunar settlement. Robots will remain on the Moon and continue to work when humans are not present. After the lunar base is established, robots will become its groundskeepers, and its housekeepers.

Prior to long-term human missions to the Moon, and prior to base construction, robotic rovers will explore and gather data about the lunar terrain. Scientists and engineers will use this information to help ensure the safety and success of future Artemis missions. The complexity of building infrastructure in outer space – the robotic equipment needed for transport, construction, and maintenance – necessitates an unprecedented level of human-robot collaboration.


From The Moon To Mars

The development of COLDArm takes the scientific community one step closer to working out the engineering that will allow extended human missions to the Moon, and then to Mars – and to establishing habitable spaces on both. Sustainable extraterrestrial human presence will only be possible with the continued advancement of robotic engineering. Motiv is excited to contribute to the future of space exploration – from the cold of the Moon to the mystery of Mars.

Learn how the Cold Operable Lunar Deployable Arm (COLDArm) is a collaborative effort between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Motiv.

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