It may be years before NASA makes another trip to the moon, but that isn’t stopping the space agency from conducting “lunar expeditions” here on Earth.

Two summers ago, teams from seven NASA research centers came together in Moses Lake, WA, to conduct a two-week study on a number of mobility and payload handling systems that could be used in the lunar environment.

One of the reasons NASA picked Moses Lake from a list of 20 potential field sites was the fact that local soils and geology resemble those on the moon. NASA engineers also liked the combination of flat, open terrain and rolling dunes in the 3,000-acre off-road vehicle park where they set up their testing facility.

Among the trials being run during the testing period was a series of test runs for a new Lunar Surface Manipulation System that includes a crane specially equipped for use in space.

To perform the tests, NASA needed a lunar lander mockup, 2 meters high and 5 meters across, to simulate unloading materials from an elevated platform to the surface. In addition to being sturdy enough to withstand hard use, the platform needed to be easy to ship, and assemble and disassemble at the test site.

Ultimately, engineers from the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, chose a 2,000-pound mockup from industrial equipment and framing manufacturer Item North America. In its final configuration, the test bed could be shipped in just eight pieces.

Engineers at Item also designed a custom crate that safely harnessed the four pieces of the platform and the four legs as separate substructures. Coupled with the creative packaging, the design allowed NASA’s test crews to quickly and easily reassemble the system in much less time than anticipated.

For more on industrial framing, visitwww.itemamerica.comor call 888-729-4500.