Mining the Moon is for future colonization. So, let's say we have established a small city. Would people born there, in low gravity, never be able to visit Earth without their bodies being crushed? Sad future for citizens of the Moon.
Deberah, the robot has been tested on several different surface types, as the article mentions. There's more detail about this in the technical paper I referred to in a previous comment, which unfortunately has been taken offline.
Yes, of course, you're right, Ann, but this type of focus likely will have a financial benefit to NASA as well, or at least allow them to disperse funds in the most useful way. Interesting stuff to cover, at any rate! I do enjoy the NASA stories. Will keep an eye out for your updates.
Elizabeth, those are good points about NASA's budget woes and research aims. I think this specialization also means that the basic space rover design platform has been worked out and they can now focus attention on more specialized tasks.
Yes, that makes sense that the robot would be designed to mine materials for local use. But that could change depending on what they find under all that lunar dust. If the materials they find have great value, they will make it back to Earth.
Thanks, Al--I really liked the design concept, not what it is so much as how the engineers worked it out. They described it in more detail in a paper that became inaccessible after I first filed the story; the entire site---NASA's technical reports server--has been down for a month or so.