By Space Probe, Rover, and Robot...

Mapping Out the Our Trip

The next thing we needed to decide was exactly where we wanted to put the base.  The moon has about as much land area as the continent of Africa, which means, compared to us rodents, it's really really big.  We knew we really wouldn't have much time to build a moonbase on the surface of the moon once we arrived in our spaceship, because we needed to have our garden growing soon after we arrived (or maybe even before) to supply us with the oxygen and food we needed to live.  Since the moonbase was dug into the ground, we couldn't move it if we found out we didn't like our site.  So what we needed to do was to explore as much of the moon's surface as we could before we picked a place to put our moonbase.  The easiest way to do this was to send space probes and rovers.  The space probes do two things for us:  They take pictures and collect data on the moon from orbit, and they supply us with a way to talk to rovers on the moon (especially the far side of the moon).  The picture below shows you how this works.  A bunch of space probes are sent to the moon, and orbit the moon as shown.  These probes become permanent satellites of the moon.  The space probes (now satellites) can talk to each other, and pass messages from one satellite to another.

The scientists on earth mostly talk to just one of the satellites at a time.  This is possible because each satellite has it's own name or address (like an e-mail address).  This avoids a lot of confusion, because earth scientists can ask a question to to just one satellite at a time and the scientists will get just one answer back (because each satellite ignores messages that are not sent to that satellite's address).  Also, the satellites can use each other's addresses to talk to each other without confusion too and pass messages from the satellites in front of the moon to satellites on the far side of the moon .

Once all the satellites are orbitting the moon, then rovers can be sent up.
Some of the rovers we use look a lot like the Mars Pathfinder's Sojourner Rover.  The rovers run on solar power, which means that the rover can't really be used during the lunar nighttime and can't explore caves, but on the other hand, it makes the rover a lot simpler, easier, and cheaper to make.  The rovers have special instruments to detect metals, and other chemicals that we need for lunar colonization.  They also have cameras that help us see what the moon looks like from the rover's point of view. 

If the rovers are really smart, they can explore on their own most of the time.  If they aren't really smart, then it's possible to operate the rovers from earth using a technique called 'telepresence'.  Telepresence is a fancy word which kind of means 'remote control', like the remote control toy cars you see on earth.  What makes telepresence different from remote control is that 

the driver uses a camera on the rover to figure out where he's going.  Some of our fancier rovers have camera eyes and mechanical hands.  By using virtual reality goggles and virtual reality gloves, we can control the rover's eyes and hands from earth or from the moonbase.  This kind of rover can help us do all kinds of work outside.  In fact, it's easier and safer to do work on the surface of the moon with a rover like this than to go outside with a spacesuit on.  Rovers never have problems running out of air like we do.  And if the rover has a bad accident and gets broken, then we might be able to fix it.  But if we have a bad accident in a spacesuit, we could die. 

Right below these words is a picture of Ham and I running our fancy rovers on the surface of the moon.  (I think Ham looks really funny in his virtual reality goggles.  Ham is the one without a tail.)

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