About a month ago, scientists from seven NASA agencies and seven U.S. Universities came together on the sand dunes near Moses Lake, Washington to simulate living and working conditions on the moon.
The exercise was in preparation for NASA's next big mission - to send four astronauts to the moon by the year 2020. Once there the astronauts will not only explore the lunar surface, but also, establish outposts and hopefully lay the foundation for a future trip to Mars.
The area around Moses Lake was chosen because it's sandy terrain, extreme temperature swings and sand storms are the closest to the environment expected on the moon - except the moon will be a lot more extreme.
In addition to testing how it would be to live in this environment, the agencies also tested several pieces of specialty equipment that they intend to take with them to conduct tests and build the outpost.
NASA's Human Robotic Systems Project tested out the communications systems that the explorers will use to keep in touch with each other and people on Earth. The scientists from NASA's Moffett Field, California tested out two Rovers, which are expected to roam the moon, sending back pictures of the terrain. Other items that were tested included cargo rovers, expected to carry loads around the moon, a lunar truck whose six wheels are built independently allowing it to move in any direction it wishes, a lunar crane that can help build the outpost. Advanced space suits for the astronauts were also tested.
Participants from all these tests are currently evaluating the results of how each piece of equipment worked, so that they can make changes and any improvements for the next phase of testing which is expected to take place in October at another site, which has an environment similar to that of the moon. To read in more detail about all the equipment tested check out: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/exploration/main/index.html
Sources:ScienceDaily.com, DailyMail.Co.UK, Nasa.gov