While the Moon might or might not contain life forms, precious metals or perhaps inexperienced cheese, recent satellite missions have indicated that it will nonetheless contain one thing that might prove quite valuable water ice. NASA has estimated that a minimum of 650 million tons (600 million tonnes) of the things can be deposited in craters close to the Moon’s north pole alone. If mined, it may conceivably function a supply of life support for future lunar bases, or it can be used to provide fuel for spacecraft stopping at a “lunar gas station.” Before any mining will happen, however, we’d like to be told a lot of concerning the ice. That’s why NASA has contracted Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology to work out if its Polaris rover robot can be used for ice prospecting.
Astrobotic has been developing Polaris since 2009, funded by a series of NASA tiny Business Innovation analysis (SBIR) contracts totaling US$795,000 to this point. the most recent SBIR contract is aimed specifically at analyzing how the rover would wish to be refined so as to hold a payload of ice-prospecting gear. That gear would come with a drill, which might be used to require core samples from the polar ice deposits. Onboard NASA-supplied scientific instruments would subsequently analyze the content of these samples the satellite studies have determined that components as well as water, methane, ammonia, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide ought to be gift. The sampling would even be used to see whether or not or not the ice deposits were focused enough to form mining possible. The entire ice prospecting payload would need to be among the rover’s carrying capability limit of eighty kilograms (176 lbs).
Astrobotic has reserved the employment of a SpaceX Falcon nine launch vehicle to send a spacecraft containing Polaris on a trajectory toward the Moon, for a planned 2015 prospecting mission. That spacecraft ought to be ready to deliver the robot safely to the lunar surface, employing a system that permits it to automatically avoid landing hazards like giant rocks or craters that system is predicated on technology developed. Once deployed, the 150-kilogram (331-lb) four-wheeled rover would use its 3 solar panels to come up with 250 watts of power, permitting it to travel at races to thirty centimeters (11.8 inches) per second. It may navigate autonomously using 3D laser scan mapping and stereo 3D HD cameras, though it may even be controlled from Earth via its S-band antenna this is able to be capable of sending video and knowledge, and receiving commands. The robot may cowl rough terrain by raising its suspension, though when it came time to drill a core sample, it may lower that suspension so as to hunker itself down.