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Thu, Jun 13, 2019

NASA Invests In Tech Concepts Aimed At Exploring Lunar Craters, Mining Asteroids

Could Help NASA Establish A Sustained Human Presence At The Moon

Robotically surveying lunar craters in record time and mining resources in space could help NASA establish a sustained human presence at the Moon – part of the agency’s broader Moon to Mars exploration approach. Two mission concepts to explore these capabilities have been selected as the first-ever Phase III studies within the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

“We are pursuing new technologies across our development portfolio that could help make deep space exploration more Earth-independent by utilizing resources on the Moon and beyond,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “These NIAC Phase III selections are a component of that forward-looking research and we hope new insights will help us achieve more firsts in space.”

The Phase III proposals outline an aerospace architecture, including a mission concept, that is innovative and could change what’s possible in space. Each selection will receive as much as $2 million. Over the course of two years, researchers will refine the concept design and explore aspects of implementing the new technology. The inaugural Phase III selections are:

  • Robotic Technologies Enabling the Exploration of Lunar Pits
  • William Whittaker, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh

This mission concept, called Skylight, proposes technologies to rapidly survey and model lunar craters. This mission would use high-resolution images to create 3D model of craters. The data would be used to determine whether a crater can be explored by human or robotic missions. The information could also be used to characterize ice on the Moon, a crucial capability for the sustained surface operations of NASA’s Artemis program. On Earth, the technology could be used to autonomously monitor mines and quarries.

(Image provided with NASA news release)

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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