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Electric Mobility: from the moon to the track with NASA

We kicked off our 2022 Shell Eco-marathon season with a brand-new Virtual Learning Session in partnership with NASA. Students from all over the world joined us live on YouTube in conversation with Lucien Junkin - NASA Mobility Chief Engineer, Robotic Systems Technology Branch and Astronaut Abby - Harvard Research Scientist & STEM & Space Influencer to explore electric mobility’s applications in space and on the track!

Watch the highlights video below and the full version here.

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Bu3mUOCbWL8

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Electric Mobility: from the moon to the track with NASA | Shell Eco-marathon

Transcript

Title: Virtual Learning Sessions – Electric Mobility: From the moon to the track with NASA

Duration: 11:08

Description: VLS Electric Mobility transcript

[GFX sting with music]

Virtual Learning Sessions

Electric Mobility: From the Moon to the Track with NASA

[Video footage]

Cuts to Norman, full frame.

Norman in vision:

Today you will be hearing from Lucien Junkin, a robotics engineer at NASA who is also the chief engineer of the rovers for the Moon and Mars.

[Video footage]

Cut to Lucien and NASA montage.

[Text displays – name strap]

Lucien Junkin

Rover Systems Chief Engineer, NASA Software, Robotics, and Simulation Division

[Video footage]

Cuts to split screen of Norman and Lucien, before cutting back to Norman, full frame.

Norman voice-over:

And in conversation with Lucien we have Abigail Harrison, also known as Astronaut Abby, an aspiring astronaut, Harvard scientist and the founder of The Mars Generation non-profit, with a mission to excite and educate kids and adults alike about STEM education and space exploration.

[Video footage]

Cuts to Abby, full frame.

[Text displays – name strap]

Abby Harrison

Havard Research Scientist & STEM & Space Influencer

[Video footage]

GFX transition to Lucien and Abby, split screen.

Lucien in vision:

It is super exciting to be here with you, Norman, and all the Eco-marathoners.

[Video footage]

Cuts to Lucien montage.

Lucien in vision:

I build Robots, I mentor, which is super satisfying and now today we are building up the LTV, the Lunar Terrain Vehicle for the Moon for the Artemis project, so super exciting.

[Video footage]

GFX transition to Lucien, full frame.

Lucien in vision:

The Artemis project, you can think of Artemis like you did Apollo. We will be flying humans back to the Moon in 2024/25 timeframe.

[Video footage]

Cut to Moon montage before cutting back to Lucien.

[GFX text displays]

Extra-Terrestrial Mobility

Lucien in vision:

On rovers for the Moon we have the same similar sub-systems.

[Video footage]

Cuts to rover footage.

Lucien voice-over:

We have to have motor controllers; we have to have a power source; we have to have like you have a bulkhead between your batteries, your power and your human, we do the same thing.

Where the environment gets difficult, like, for the Moon, is the fact that we have… there’s no atmosphere. If you kind of appreciate what’s going on on the Moon and understand the environment, there are a few things going on that are much different.

Lucien in vision:

So gravity is much different on the Moon. So one sixth of what it is here on earth.

[Video footage]

Cuts to astronaut montage.

Lucien voice-over:

The equatorial, if you’re at the equatorial regions, like we did on Apollo, you have 14 Earth days of sunlight, 14 Earth days of darkness.

Lucien in vision:

So on Earth you keep all of your systems nice and cool by blowing air across them. On the Moon, we don’t get that opportunity so we have to run fluids.

Now let’s talk about Earth. Earth you go from cold to you know, you kind of understand what cold is, 0 degrees C to hot. I think of hot as 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of you guys out there can do the math to erm… 80 to 90 degrees. 100 degrees in Houston.

But on the Moon it goes from minus 270 degrees Fahrenheit to plus 270 degrees Fahrenheit.

[Video footage]

Cuts to rover montage.

Lucien voice-over:

Huge swings in temperature without the ability to have an environment to blow air across all your components.

Lucien in vision:

So all of our motors and batteries and everything. We don’t get to shut off the vehicle on the moon. We need to keep it warm-bodied.

[Video footage]

Cuts to split screen of vehicle and Lucien.

Lucien in vision:

We do all types of thing to adapt to that environment, and that’s really, that’s good for Earth too, so we will use a lot of that technology and bring it down to here on Earth.

[Video footage]

Cuts to the three-way split screen of Norman, Lucien and Abby.

So your suspension on the Moon is different than your suspension on Earth. So since you’re a much lighter vehicle – not mass wise but force wise – when you step on a scale on Earth and you weigh 180 pounds when you get to the Moon, you’re one sixth of 180 pounds, or 30 pounds.

[Video footage]
Cuts to footage of vehicle.

Lucien in vision:
So your suspension doesn’t have to be as robust from a weight standpoint, but you also spring way higher on the Moon, so suspension is one thing.

[Video footage]
Cuts to three-way split screen of Norman, Lucien and Abby.

Lucien in vision:
The bones on the vehicle, we call them the bones on the vehicle, so the bones on the vehicle, because of gravity need to be stronger on Earth than they do on the Moon.

[Video footage]
Cuts to split screen of Moon footage and Lucien.

Lucien in vision:
There is one particular thing we’re really concerned about at NASA that we have an entire group working on, and that is the abrasion of the Lunar Regular or the sole/soul. So you can imagine this sole/soul as taking a glass in your kitchen and just smashing it on the floor and it breaks into all of these sharp shards. And there’s no wind on the Moon to tumble those shards and when the rocks come in and hit the Moon there’s no wind to tumble the rocks, there’s no water to tumble it and to take the sharp edges, so the rocks, and we learned this from Apollo, so all of that sand on the Moon is very glass like, it’s very shardy. So that is a big challenge to keep all of the dust out of everything, all of our mechanisms and everything.

[Video footage]
Cuts to split screen of Norman and Lucien.

Lucien in vision:
So we use rare Earth, brushless DC motors.

[GFX Text displays]
Energy Efficiency

Lucien in vision:
Energy density and batteries are our number one concern.

[Video footage]
Cuts to rover montage.

Lucien voice-over:
When the rovers go to the moon. How energy dense will our batteries be?

Lucien in vision:
What you basically do on the Moon is you get to a location and you say “OK I have to survive the night”. You get into this kinda curled up position where you have all of your MLI and you know you’re about to get super cold. And then you have heaters all over the vehicle, where you have to use your battery power to heat these heaters, and you have a heat leak out of the vehicle. So you’re hoping the batteries with simulation and math is – you always gotta do the math, remember that – is that trying to survive the night with the amount of energy you have in your batteries. And if you don’t, If you run out of batteries, your vehicle is done! Your 10 year vehicle, that you needed on the Moon, has just died because you had a tear in the MLI. So there’s lot of challenges, “survive the night” and energy density really scares us a lot and we put a lot of resources to it.

[GFX text displays]
Aerodynamics

[Video footage]
Cuts to split screen of Norman and Lucien.

Lucien in vision:
Aerodynamics, or the lack of in our case, makes lunar rovers look really, let’s just be honest… ugly!

[Video footage]
Cuts to montage of rovers.

Lucien voice-over:
So, since… We don’t have two things on the Moon that are a huge advantage: wind resistance and rain.

Lucien in vision:
So aerodynamics-wise, we don’t get the benefit of aerodynamics to be able to have air to blow across our systems to thermally control them. But we also don’t have to worry about it going down the road because there is no air resistance. So the end results is like I was saying – doesn’t make the rovers look super pretty.

[GFX text displays]
Life Support

Abby in vision:
I really think that one of the most exciting things that’s going on in space currently is this return to the Moon. It’s impossible or it’s very difficult to not look at that and be very excited and inspired, but when we’re thinking about returning humans to the Moon or putting humans on Mars for the first time, the human issues do start to become very pressing, and one of those issues of course is life support systems. Having adequate water filtration devices and the ability to really conserve all these resources that you bring with you, as well as to potentially utilise some of the energy resources that you may be able to find.

[Video footage]
Cuts to three-way split screen of Norman, Lucien and Abby.

Lucien in vision:
I would like to add a couple of words to that, so number one, everyone, Abby is super, super smart! Number two, we’re trying with Viper, we’re actually going into the permanently shattered craters, drilling for what we call “rock ice”. We are hoping to find the water that we can use for life support systems. So, hopefully in this generation, one day we will live off of the land!

[Video footage]
Cuts to split screen of Lucien and Abby.

Lucien in vision:
So, no-one has ever lived off the land on another planet and Abby is making that possible to help us live off the land on the Moon and hopefully Mars one day!

[Video footage]
GFX transition to Lucien, full frame.

Lucien in vision:
This is what engineering kind of is all about, is thinking out of the box.

[Video footage]
GFX transition to split screen of Norman and Lucien.

Lucien in vision:
The three pillars of success. I would like to do… So when we compete we have these three pillars of success.

[Video footage]
Cuts to footage of robots.

Lucien in voice-over:
We call it the robot, which in your case is your vehicle. The execution which is the YOU factor, and it’s not just the driver it’s the pit crew, it’s fixing your vehicle, it’s all of those things that people have to execute. And then there’s the strategy – exactly what line you take, how you use your energy, the strategy when you’re on the track.

[Video footage]
Cuts to split screen of robot footage and Lucien.

Lucien in vision:
When somebody comes into the room and they are energetic about the ‘what if’, then listen to them and embrace them because if you have the ‘what if’ and you have the energy behind the ‘what if’ to bring something to life and to prototype and develop that, magical things really can happen.

[Video footage]
GFX transition to Lucien, full frame.

Lucien in vision:
The best advice is to always have kinda that plan B.

[Video footage]
Cuts to montage of robots, vehicles and astronauts.

Lucien voice-over:
It doesn’t really matter whether you’re building an Eco-marathon vehicle or a robot or living life.

Lucien in vision:
We always hope that plan A works but we all have to adjust to whatever’s thrown our way.

So that would be my advice, is to kinda go through life, take some extra college courses that you have an interest in and kinda be a diversified person and be able to pursue your dreams as they come.But really, don’t lose your dreams. Just keep kinda chipping away with it.

[Video footage]
Cuts to montage of robots and vehicles.

Lucien voice-over:
Look, I didn’t know what my dream was. there wasn’t even a computer back in the 1970s when I was growing up, and then computers came along in the 80s, things happened, robotics…

Lucien in vision:
You didn’t even know what a robot was in the 70s. Now look! So pursue your dreams.

[Text displays]
Learn more about Shell Eco-marathon at
makethefuture.shell/shell-eco-marathon

[End board with Shell logo]

Watch the full session now

#MakeTheFuture

Shell International Limited 2021

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