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Texas A&M builds first-ever life-size simulation of the moon and Mars' surface

The Texas A&M Space Institute is rolling out a new era of space simulation: a football field-sized at-scale simulation of the moon’s surface and another facility of the surface on Mars.
Posted at 1:42 PM, Jun 12, 2024

BRYAN, Texas (KRHD) — The Texas A&M Space Institute is rolling out a new era of space simulation: a football field-sized at-scale simulation of the moon’s surface and another facility of the surface on Mars.

  • The state of Texas is funding the $200 million facility to bring the latest technology in space exploration to Texas.
  • The facility at the Johnson Space Center in Houston is a much larger version of the lab they are currently using at RELLIS Campus in Bryan.
  • The at-scale simulations of the surfaces on the moon and Mars will help astronauts better train and prepare for missions to the two bodies.
NASA and Texas A&M leaders meeting at the ASCENDxTexas Conference in South Shore Harbour, Texas on Feb. 15.

Texas News

NASA working with Texas A&M to build new spaceflight research facilities

Christian Hudspeth
11:41 AM, Feb 16, 2024

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

“Instead of opening the door and rolling out to Bryan-College Station, outside that door would be the lunar surface,” Dr. Ambrose said.

Opening the doors to space exploration begins right here in the Brazos Valley.

“This fantastic facility is literally one of a kind where you can open up your garage door and roll your rover out onto the lunar surface and have somebody in a spacesuit. They're working, have habitats, test out the tools that are required as we go beyond low earth orbit and start to explore beyond our own planet," Dr. Currie-Gregg said.

Dr. Nancy Currie-Gregg and Dr. Robert Ambrose are spearheading the Texas A&M Space Institute project at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

It’s a $200 million facility paid for by the state of Texas that will house two football field-sized terrains, one simulating the moon’s surface and one simulating the surface on Mars.

“Kyle Field can fit in one of the scapes. So imagine two Kyle Fields with a building in between and a building in a building, if you will," Dr. Currie-Gregg said.

While the facility will be in Houston, it will be a larger version of this lab at RELLIS Campus, where students and faculty are already working on different robots to help with the space missions.

“We wanted this ball initially to go to the bottom of a crater on the moon. Which is a really bad place for a person," Dr. Ambrose said.

From building robots to testing extreme temperatures.

“We can go from -60 degrees Celsius all the way up to 120 degrees Celsius,” Emily Wilkinson said.

A&M graduates like Wilkinson are expanding the limits of space exploration.

“It’s really a dream come true… I love working with my hands, I love working with technology and having the opportunity to do that here, it was perfect," Wilkinson said.

This at-scale simulation is the first of its kind, and, as an astronaut who has been to space four times, Dr. Currie-Gregg said that experience is invaluable.

“I know how I trained, I know what was good about the training, I know where some gaps were, and again, I'm really adamant of at-scale physical analogues. You know, there's no substitute for that.”