BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - NASA engineers have developed a new roving vehicle that could one day be used to help turn the moon into a space refueling station.
WFTV reporter Kevin Oliver got a look at the rover Tuesday as engineers took it for a test spin behind NASA’s research buildings at Kennedy Space Center.
The rover, nicknamed “Artemis Junior,’’ is designed to search for more proof of water or ice just beneath the moon’s surface.
"We found water in the permanently shadowed craters but we see evidence that that water ice extends outside the permanent shadows into areas that are sometimes sunlit," said William Larson, rover project manager.
The rover is equipped to drill into the moon’s surface, collect samples and test them for traces of water, or its components, hydrogen and oxygen.
“Hydrogen and oxygen, which make up water, is perfect rocket fuel,’’ Larson said.
Researchers behind the experiment say the rover could be instrumental in turning the moon into a fueling station. If water can be easily accessed there, a spacecraft might be able to refuel for exploration deeper into space, making space travel less expensive.
"It would reduce the size and mass of our launch vehicles and thereby drop the cost of our missions," Larson said.
But so far, no funding to launch the rover is available. Researchers say it would cost about $250 million to get the rover to the moon. They hope to get funding from Congress, or at least permission to allow the rover to hitchhike on another mission.