Enabling Long-Duration Lunar Equatorial Operations With Thermal Wadi Infrastructure
Long duration missions on the Moon’s equator must survive lunar nights. With 350 hr of cryogenic temperatures, lunar nights present a challenge to robotic survival. Insulation is imperfect, so it is not possible to passively contain enough heat to stay warm through the night. Components that enable mobility, environmental sensing and solar power generation must be exposed, and they leak heat. Small, lightweight rovers cannot store enough energy to warm components throughout the night without some external source of heat or power. Thermal wadis, however, can act as external heat sources to keep robots warm through the lunar night. Electrical power can also be provided to rovers during the night from batteries stored in the ground beside wadis. Buried batteries can be warmed by the wadi’s heat. Results from analysis of the interaction between a rover and a wadi are presented. A detailed three-dimensional (3D) thermal model and an easily configurable two-dimensional (2D) thermal model are used for analysis.