Fact Check: NASA Did NOT Announce Plan To Build Modern Railway System On Moon As Of May 2024

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: NASA Did NOT Announce Plan To Build Modern Railway System On Moon As Of May 2024 Concept Study

Did NASA announce that it has plans to build a railway system on the moon? No, that's not true: The space agency announced funding for visionary concept studies that include a "lunar railway," but not an official launch of a train system on the moon. As of May 2024, there was not a concrete plan to build a modern railway system on the moon.

The claim appeared in a post on Facebook on May 7, 2024 (archived here). It opened:

NASA Plans To Build a Modern Railway System On The Moon
#Nasachallenge #moon #railwaysystem

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2024-05-13 at 12.14.40 PM.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon May 13 18:44:18 2024 UTC)

NASA announced funding for "concept studies" that included a "lunar railway" in early May 2024, but these are programs that are still in the theoretical stage, not solid plans that are being implemented.

In a May 2, 2024, post on the NASA website (archived here) titled, "NASA Doubles Down, Advances Six Innovative Tech Concepts to New Phase," the funding for the concepts was announced:

NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts program (NIAC) has selected six visionary concept studies for additional funding and development. Each study has already completed the initial NIAC phase, showing their futuristic ideas - like a lunar railway system and fluid-based telescopes - may provide fresh perspectives and approaches as NASA explores the unknown in space.

'These diverse, science fiction-like concepts represent a fantastic class of Phase II studies,' said John Nelson, NIAC program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. 'Our NIAC fellows never cease to amaze and inspire, and this class definitely gives NASA a lot to think about in terms of what's possible in the future.'

The NASA website posted an article (archived here) on May 1, 2024 titled, "Flexible Levitation on a Track (FLOAT)," that described the concept for the railway.

We want to build the first lunar railway system, which will provide reliable, autonomous, and efficient payload transport on the Moon. A durable, long-life robotic transport system will be critical to the daily operations of a sustainable lunar base in the 2030's, as envisioned in NASA's Moon to Mars plan and mission concepts like the Robotic Lunar Surface Operations 2 (RLSO2) ...

The FLOAT system employs unpowered magnetic robots that levitate over a 3-layer flexible film track: a graphite layer enables robots to passively float over tracks using diamagnetic levitation, a flex-circuit layer generates electromagnetic thrust to controllably propel robots along tracks, and an optional thin-film solar panel layer generates power for the base when in sunlight. FLOAT robots have no moving parts and levitate over the track to minimize lunar dust abrasion / wear, unlike lunar robots with wheels, legs, or tracks.

The image used on the NASA website is an "artist concept" of what the railway would look like, and it does not include trains as the image in the post on Facebook shows:

Screen Shot 2024-05-13 at 12.41.55 PM.png

(Source: NASA screenshot taken on Mon May 13 18:50:32 2024 UTC)

Lead Stories used the Hive Moderation AI Generated Content Detection (archived here) tool to analyze the image posted on Facebook. The result was a 99.9 percent chance of being AI generated, as this screenshot shows:

Screen Shot 2024-05-13 at 12.53.19 PM.png

(Source: HIVE website screenshot taken on Mon May 13 18:52:41 2024 UTC)

Other Lead Stories fact checks about NASA can be found here.

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  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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