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NCSU Students Hope to Take Their Lunar Robot to the Moon

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RALEIGH — NASAhopes to put researchers on the Moon by 2010. The space agency is looking to university students for help. N.C. State sends it HELIOS team to New Mexico later this month to compete with other universities. As Tom Lawrence reports, ideas from students may be used to build the lunar station.

Lunar station components will rocket from earth and be assembled on the Moon. A sandbox on theN.C. Statecampus serves as the Moon's surface. Team advisor Jason Janet says one twelfth scale working models of the lander, lunar habitat and a robot are tested for competition.

Listen toauorreal audiofiles."Ideally they want to make it so that the moon is habitable before anybody shows up, so, fortunately all the students here took this very seriously."

Meet Thumper -- an all purpose robot that pulls the habitat off the lander, drags things around and even insulates the habitat with lunar soil. HELIOS leader Amanda England says that function is critical.

Listen toauorreal audiofiles."We've come out here and tested so many things and running and doing excavation strategy and changing that we've figured out we hopefully have the best excavation strategy."

Right now, Thumper operators are within feet of the robot. When NASA actually builds the moon station, robots could be controlled from Earth or the planned space station. Faculty advisor Dr. William Allen says N.C. State's entry is a real team effort.

Listen toauorreal audiofiles."We've brought together students from four different disciplines and they're working together as a major team with very limited faculty direction."

Kinks must be worked out, but soon these students with Thumper and his friends will be showing their stuff to NASA.

Thumper is the first remotely controlled robot used by any team in the NASA competition. Wireless commands can be given by a remote operator as he watches televised images from the robot.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Mark Copeland, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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