MAKICHUK: Get on board the moon train!

Artist's conception of a train on the moon.
Artist's conception of a train on the moon.AI generated image

When soul singer James Brown & The Famous Flames busted out with the uber-hip grooves of Night Train in 1962, they probably never thought of the idea of trains on the moon.

But yes, we are now contemplating that very possibility — even though, our world could end in a nuclear conflagration before it's realized.

According to a report in, Northrop Grumman announced it will provide the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) with a concept study of a “lunar railroad” as part of the Defence Department far-future organization’s overarching 10-Year Lunar Architecture (LunA-10) Capability Study.

DARPA is a research and development agency of the United States Department of Defence responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military.

“The envisioned lunar railroad network could transport humans, supplies and resources for commercial ventures across the lunar surface — contributing to a space economy for the United States and international partners,” the company said in a press release.

The theoretical railroad would transport people and cargo across the moon’s surface — no word yet if they will have a restaurant car.

DARPA in December issued study contracts to 14 vendors for various studies on the types of technologies needed to create a working lunar economy, including commercial activities in cislunar space and on the surface of the Moon.

DARPA did not reveal the budget for the effort nor the size of the individual contracts, nor has NASA committed any funds to further develop the idea.

A moon base concept.
A moon base concept.NASA

The study initiative is an outgrowth of the Biden administration’s National Cislunar Science and Technology Strategy.

The latter was designed to build a whole-of-government strategy for “advancing scientific, exploration and economic development activities” in space around the moon and on the lunar surface, the report said.

According to Northrop Grumman, the envisioned lunar railroad network is poised to play a pivotal role in establishing a robust space economy, according to a report published by The Sun.

It will offer unparalleled opportunities for the US and its international partners to capitalize on the vast potential of lunar resources and exploration, the report said.

As for the moon train itself, according to the Northrop Grumman release, its study will:

  • Define the interfaces and resources required to build a lunar rail network;

  • Establish a critical list of foreseeable cost, technological and logistical risks;

  • Identify prototypes, demonstrations and analyses of a fully operating lunar rail system’s concept design and architecture;

  • Explore concepts for constructing and operating the system with robotics, including grading and foundation preparation, track placement and alignment, joining and finishing, inspection, maintenance and repair.

NASA in 2021 also funded a small feasibility study of a lunar railroad using magnetic levitation (maglev) train cars, the report said.

The concept, developed by scientists at the space agency’s own Jet Propulsion Laboratory and SRI International, was called “FLOAT — Flexible Levitation on a Track.”

It envisioned the use of autonomous robotic vehicles hovering over a film-based track designed to avoid problems with the fine, but highly abrasive, particles making up lunar regolith.

With a final report expected in June, DARPA remains committed to advancing the development of self-sustaining lunar infrastructure, poised to revolutionize humanity's approach to space exploration and commerce, The Economic Times reported.

Among the other companies selected by DARPA to participate in its Luna-10 study are Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin.

Northrop Grumman is studying how to build a train on the moon.
Northrop Grumman is studying how to build a train on the moon.AI generated image

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