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Skiing tops bunny hopping in lunar races

So says ex-astronaut

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Future lunar explorers should learn cross country skiing so they can explore the surface of the moon faster and with less effort.

Dr Harrison Schmitt, the ex-Apollo crew member making the recommendations, isn't suggesting that lunar landers carry skis with them, but that they learn to propel themselves forward, in the same way Nordic skiers do.

Dr Schmitt made his remarks at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), where he showed video footage taken during his 1972 mission to the moon. He told delegates that he was drawing on his own experience on the lunar surfaces, where he found the techniques of cross-country skiing very useful.

"When you're cross-country skiing, once you get a rhythm going, you propel yourself with a toe push as you slide along the snow," he said. "On the Moon, in the main you don't slide, you glide above the surface. But again, you use the same kind of rhythm, with a toe push."

He added that it would be nice to have poles "for stability", and explained that stopping would only require the astronaut to dig his or her heels into the soft lunar surface.

More traditionally, astronauts have bunny-hopped to get around on the moon. But Dr Schmidt says his method is better for getting somewhere in a hurry: he estimates his top speed as around 8mph, similar to that of a lunar buggy.

When he was in training for his lunar mission, Dr Schmidt says he tried to convince his fellow astronauts to learn how to ski, Nordic style, but that they were less than receptive to his ideas.

The BBC reports that Schmidt also thought there would be good downhill skiing to be had on the moon, especially on the eastern rim of the Sea of Serenity. ®

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