Sunday, July 15, 2012

'A Resolve to mine the Moon'

The Canadian Space Agency's unmanned Artemis Jr. rover with the NASA RESOLVE payload will undergo another season of testing on the Big Island of Hawai'i this year, and not Mare Crisium, as pictured above. Click HERE for a much larger and realistic rendering.
Brian Shiro
Astronaut for Hire

I will be on the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii next week working with the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES). As I've described in previous posts, PISCES is an international research and education consortium headquartered at the University of Hawaii at Hilo that aims to develop, test, and validate technologies for use on the Moon, Mars and beyond. When humans return to the Moon and journey to Mars, they will have to live off the land. It's just too costly to bring everything we need with us. That includes rocket fuel for the return trip, water, oxygen, and other consumables. Thus, it is critical that we learn how to utilize in situ resources if we are to establish permanent presences on other worlds.

As a geophysicist by profession, my interest lies with applying my terrestrial geophysical exploration knowledge to other planetary bodies. To this end, I carried out experiments at FMARS in 2009 and MDRS in 2010 to study the human factors elements associated with astronaut-conducted geophysical surveys to prospect for subsurface resources like water. I presented my findings at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference and Lunar Science Forum, the results of which became my UND master's thesis. Now, I am embarking on a Ph.D. at the University of Hawaii to take this work to another level in analog environments such as Hawaii.

The main system being tested at PISCES this year is the Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatile Extraction (RESOLVE) experiment. This consists of a lunar rover and drill provided by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to support a NASA payload that turns regolith (dirt) into rocket fuel, water, and air. A system developed from the RESOLVE prototype may travel to the Moon in the next few years to prove that water seen from orbit is accessible and that useful products can be made from it.  It could be the key that finally makes the solar system accessible to humans in a safe, cost-efficient manner.

Read Brian's entire post at Astronaut for Hire, HERE.

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