Chinese scientists are looking for new and innovative ways to bring people to and from the moon - including a "sky ladder" and a manned lunar rover - in a new video released Saturday, April 24.

State-run press arm Xinhua Agency released a video that presented the two new ideas - futuristic projects that aim to create new means of Lunar travel. The video presentation, running close to two minutes, explains the proposed methods aided by an animation.

Artist concept: Space Elevator
(Photo: NASA/Pat Rawlings via Wikimedia Commons)

Sky Ladder: The Chinese Response to the Space Elevator

The first proposed project is a "Sky Ladder," which aims to transport humans and goods to the moon and will supposedly cut down associated costs to only four percent of the existing transport costs.

The design includes a space capsule for holding passengers or cargo that is propelled upwards into the sky along a carbon nanotube "ladder." It travels upward toward the first space station, where it is picked up by a huge robot arm and prepares it for a flight toward the second space station. Upon reaching the second space station, it once again flies towards another station, connecting it to the "second rung" of the ladder - another carbon nanotube line sending the capsule down to the Moon's surface.

Design-wise, the "Sky Ladder" proposed by Chinese scientists is similar to the Space Elevator, a planet-to-space transport concept that would allow vehicles, like a passenger or cargo capsule, to travel from the Earth's surface to outer space. Tracing its roots to an idea by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895, the main component of the modern concept for the Space Elevator relies on a component known as the tether, which is a cable attached to Earth on one side and a counterweight on the other. The line is expected to stay vertical as the tether moves rotate with Earth, thanks to its center of mass is located slightly above the geostationary level.

ALSO READ: Company Gets Patent For Space Elevator

While its reliance on tensile materials has made the project out of reach for decades now, studies and design concepts place hopes on the use of carbon nanotubes - the same material described in the Chinese Sky Ladder.

A New Manned Lunar Rover

The second half of the video introduces a new design for a manned lunar rover - a six-wheeled, foldable vehicle that can accommodate two passengers sitting back to back. It is expected to run at a maximum speed of 25 km/h (15.53 mi/h). This speed exceeds the top speed intended for the Lunar Roving Vehicle used during the Apollo Moon Missions - a four-wheeled, two-passenger rover first used in the Apollo 15 mission. During the Apollo 17 mission, astronaut Eugene Cernan logged a top speed of 18 km/h (11.2 mi/h).

As a lunar rover, the new vehicle by Chinese scientists claims to be able to traverse various landscapes on the Moon's surface, with its shape-shifting wheels capable of offering additional tractions to move in and out of craters safely. 

"With positioning systems and other equipment, it could be the future of moon transport," the Xinhua-released video said of its lunar rover.


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