The European Space Agency (ESA) is working on plans for a robotic lunar outpost where machines would assemble moonbase modules and transport them on ground vehicles into trenches dug by other robots. The outpost would test technologies for later manned missions.

The lunar study team has decided that the robots need not be autonomous. The 300,000km (186,000 miles) distance between the Earth and Moon enables real time human tele-operation to control lunar base construction. ESA is already considering tele-operated mining equipment that is in use today.

"In mines you rarely see humans. They are tele-operating trucks operated from the surface. Humans in cabins are operating seven machines at once [and we could do the same for equipment on the Moon]," says Gianfranco Visentin, head of ESA's automation and robotics section.

Once in a trench, robots would cover an outpost module with soil to protect it from cosmic radiation and solar flares.

Source: Flight International