Media Day on Mauna Kea With NASA Developers and the Moon Rover

Today (originally posted 11/13/08) I had the privilege of taking part in the “Media Day” up top Mauna Kea.

I mentioned the SCARAB tests that would be happening on my blog here.

…NASA’s In Situ Resource Utilization project focuses on developing methods for astronauts to take advantage of lunar resources at landing sites on the moon. During two weeks of field tests, NASA will demonstrate prototype systems that could enable a sustainable and affordable lunar outpost by minimizing the amount of water and oxygen that must be supplied from Earth. The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, or PISCES, headquartered at the University of Hawaii, Hilo, will host the tests.

Reporters will be able to observe and photograph various tests of a prototype moon rover designed to prospect for ice in lunar craters, and two systems to manufacture oxygen from the lunar soil. Engineers involved in the development of these systems will be available for interviews…

There was about 30 – 40 people from the general media there.  People from Japan, Canada, the Mainland, as well as Hawaii.

NASA workers were from all over the place.

I arrived at the staging area about 8:30 and we all got debriefed.

We moved our cars to just below the staging area and then boarded 4X4’s to take us up the mountain to where the demonstrations were taking place.

About 2 miles off the main access road we finally descended into this valley on Mauna Kea:valley

It was really kind of a weird sensation.  I felt like I was in the movie “Close Encounters” at the end of the movie when they discovered the hidden military base.

valley2

It was very interesting, and VERY COLD.

I happened to be in the carpool with AP Writer Karin Stanton so it was kind of cool being able to feed off each others questions.  The person that was driving us… was one of the Big Wigs of the project and he was telling us the reasons behind Mauna Kea being selected as the test site.

The primary reasons were, the soil on Mauna Kea is similar to that of the Moon, the location and proximity of the site to other experiments being done, and the fact that the conditions over all on Mauna Kea were similar to that of the Moon.

There were official looking people that had Red Jump Suits on that were standing around ready to answer questions that anyone had:

red-suits

There are three things that are being field tested up there right now:

1. The Scarab:

scarab1

Look real close at the tires

scarab2

There was a  gentlemen that was from Michelin tires on hand to answer questions.  Michelin is providing the tires for the Moon Rover.  He actually told me that these tires were more then a Million Dollars!

scarabtire

Close up of tire:

scarab-037

2. We then got to look at a piece of the equipment that the SCARAB will carry on the moon.  This was known as RESOLVE: Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatile Extraction, which basically can create water from Soil… or Moon dust:

revolve

scarab-028

3. They also had on hand their “CRATOS” which is a robotic excavator that will collect soil, however, this was not working at the time:

scarab-021

In total, we spent about 2 hours up there.  My wife was fortunate enough to be able to take vacation pay today so she was able to join me on this excursion.  Besides that, she’s the smart one in the family.

We got back into a Harpers 4×4 Rental Van.  William Ing and Peter Sur from the Hawaii Tribune Herald rode back to the staging area with us.  They informed me that it did not appear that the West Hawaii Today had sent anyone.

I’m sure the Tribune Herald will have more on this in the next day or two.

There will be a public demonstration on Saturday at the Imiloa Center in Hilo.

But the real footage that you are going to want to catch… Is Big Island Video News Footage of the story as soon as Mr. Corrigan is through Digitizing his footage and adding it to his site… that is where you are gonna see the action as well as video responses from those that were actually giving the tour.

A great day at the mountain… although it was stormy in Puna… it was a beautiful day up top Mauna Kea.

* I see Karin wrote up her piece for the Honolulu Advertiser here.

** More on these tires that the rover had here.

***UPDATE – Photo Gallery Added (Click Picture for Larger Picture)

6 Responses

  1. Damon/David,
    Just to clarify, the test site you visited was selected for this specific test only. NASA has no plans to build any permanent structures at this location. If you go back to the site this week, other than the footprints we left, you wouldn’t be able to tell we had been there and the footprints will probably be gone after a couple of rainstorms. The mention of a permanent structure to simulate a moonbase in the PISCES video is just a PISCES idea, not a NASA idea. NASA has no plans to build a simulated moon base on Mauna Kea and if we ever did decide to build such a structure, it is unlikely, in my opinion, that it would be built in Hawaii. I would more likely be built close to one of the NASA Centers on the mainland. Any further tests conducted in Hawaii would likely be short campaigns like the one we just completed where we specifically need soil or rock conditions similar to the moon.

    One more thing, your reference to testing on the “top of Mauna Kea” could mislead people to think we conducted these tests near the summit. The tests were conducted well below the summit (9,000 ft) in areas where four wheel drive enthusiasts and hunters frequently enjoy the mountain. I would not want your readers to believe that we conducted these tests on the more sacred areas of the mountain. We really are trying to be sensitive to the concerns of the local community.

    Glad you enjoyed your visit. Thanks for your interest in informing the community about our efforts to return to the moon! Warmest Regards, The NASA “bigwig” ;-)

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