With the launch of lunar orbital stations & therefore the first Moon landing in years expected to require place this decade, scientists are increasingly setting their sights on technology that might allow future missions to mine the Moon for resources.
A team of researchers from University of Arizona recently received a $500,000 grant from NASA to develop space-mining methods. The result’s is development of a swarm of autonomous robots that would search & mine for rare-earth element metals on the Moon, a press-release explains.
Lunar robot swarm will work as a team & improve over time
The team behind the robots developed an electrochemical process that drills through rock 5X faster than the other method. this is often combined with a neuromorphic learning architecture technique called Human & Explainable Autonomous Robotic System (HEART) that trains robots to figure together & improve their collaboration skills over time via machine learning. The team will build & train the robots on Earth in order that they can hone their teamwork skills during a safer environment before going-to-space. Ultimately, the team aims to deploy swarm of robots on Moon, where they’re going to be ready to build basic structures & mine for resources without instruction from Earth.
Mining under the Moon’s surface could greatly reduce reliance on transporting materials from Earth for future lunar stations. Materials that would be mined on Moon include rare-earth element metals, titanium, gold & platinum, & helium-3. rare-earth element metals could help to create medical equipment and smartphones, while helium-3 could fuel nuclear power-plants in distant future.
Sending “artificial creatures” to Moon
Jekan Thanga, who developed the HEART learning architecture, likens swarm of robots to a herd of animals or workers on a farm. “In a way , we’re like farmers. We’re breeding talent out of those creatures, or an entire family of creatures, to try to to certain tasks,” he said. “By browsing this process, we help perfect these artificial creatures whose job it’s to try to do to the mining tasks.” The team believes that swarm of robots could free astronauts to spend longer time on critical mission operations, at same-time as performing dangerous construction tasks. “The idea is to possess the robots build, set things up and do all the dirty, boring, dangerous stuff, therefore the astronauts can do the more interesting stuff,” Thanga said.
The University of Arizona team is not the just one getting to send mining robots to the Moon. In June, California-based Masten Systems announced it had been developing a lunar rover that would blast through Moon rock to succeed in ice, providing vital water resources to future lunar stations. Space mining is additionally set to travel beyond our celestial neighbor, as asteroids in our solar, like 16 Psyche contain abundant materials — its net worth is estimated to be $700 quintillion — that would be transported back to Earth. Sourcing materials off-world could shape the economy of the longer term , with resources mined autonomously with little human intervention.