NASA is Building Floating Train Tracks to Use on the Moon

It sounds like sci-fi, but NASA hopes to build a levitating railway on the Moon. It first proposed the idea in 2021, and it could be up and running by the 2030s.

Flexible Levitation on a Track (FLOAT) will use unpowered magnetic robots that hover over tracks to transport materials more easily. Each robot, which looks more like a floating tray, would carry 30kg of material. Because it floats, it would minimize dust abrasion and other wear and tear.

This system would eliminate the need for roads or conventional railways. It is one of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. All six projects transform science-fiction concepts like this one into reality.

“We want to build the first lunar railway system, which will provide reliable, autonomous, and efficient payload transport on the Moon,” said NASA robotics engineer Ethan Schaler.

The robots will float over a three-layer flexible film track. A graphite layer lets the robots float passively over tracks and a flex-circuit layer generates electromagnetic thrust to propel robots forward. In addition, a solar panel layer generates power in sunlight.

In theory, the robots will move up to 100 tonnes of material a day to landing zones and other outposts. NASA believes this system will help create a sustainable lunar base and serve their Moon to Mars program.

In the next phase, the team will now test a set of robot and track prototypes here on Earth. They will then need to figure out how the conditions on the moon will impact the railway’s functionality and longevity.

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.