Things Should Orderly FLOAT on the Moon on Levitation Railway Track

Moon FLOAT concept 1 photo
Photo: Ethan Schaler
It’s no secret anymore that sometime over the next decade, humanity will establish the first elements of a permanent base on the Moon. The Americans are the most advanced in their plans of doing this, but the Russians and Chinese recently announced similar plans.
NASA’s idea of a base on the Moon is part of the Artemis program, and, despite not having a set deadline for completion, it already spawns crazy ideas from interested parties. Ethan Schaler, a scientist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is working on one such idea, something called FLOAT.

FLOAT stands for Flexible Levitation on a Track and is envisioned as a transport system for payloads on the Moon. Regolith mined on the surface could be moved to the construction site of whatever installation or hardware shipped from landing pads to where they’re needed.

For the system to work, a flexible film track needs to be laid on the ground. The film would comprise three layers: a graphite one to be used for diamagnetic levitation, a flex-circuit one to generate the electromagnetic thrust and provide forward motion to the platforms overhead, and, optionally, a solar panel layer for extra energy requirements.

On top of this track floating at a set distance would be magnetic tray robots, platforms of sorts that could be loaded with things. Each of them should be capable of carrying payloads of various shapes, sizes, and weights at speeds of around 0.5 meters per second. They would be autonomous, and together with their track, reconfigurable and capable of supporting relocation.

FLOAT is one of the several projects chosen by NASA for the Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, and it is still in its early stages. A disclaimer accompanies all these concepts, claiming they “may never become NASA missions,” but we have a feeling FLOAT is something a future lunar colony would most definitely need.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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