NASA awards $500,000 for creating Moon mining technology

The Earth’s natural satellite continues to be the subject of many studies. China and Russia, for example, struck a deal earlier this year to build a new research station on the Moon. But the US space agency is already going further in this endeavor: NASA has distributed $500,000 to scientific organizations to create a technology for mining the lunar soil.

The amount was divided as a prize between about 13 scientific organizations, including companies and schools, that participated in the program “Break the Ice” (“Break the Ice,” in free translation from English). This initiative aims to create concept systems to enable sustainable lunar operations and pave the way for harnessing lunar ice.

The extraction of lunar resources is seen with extreme importance by NASA, one of the main guidelines for man’s return to the Moon — scheduled for 2025. This is because the natural satellite has vast layers of ice that could be used to, for example, strengthen the availability of water on Earth.

Redwire Space took first place in the program, introducing a concept that uses two rovers — ground exploration vehicles such as Curiosity and Perseverance on Mars — working together: a lighter one to transport resources; and another heavier one, with drilling and extraction equipment. The company took US$ 125 thousand (about R$ 672,05 thousand).

Another US$75,000 (R$403,23 thousand) was awarded to the Colorado Mining School, which created a system almost identical to the previous one, but with three rovers instead of two.

Austere Engineering took third place (US$50,000, or R$268.82 thousand) with its concept, which involves the use of a rotating plow. Another ten institutions follow the ranking, each taking US$ 25,000 (R$ 134.41 thousand).

The Break the Ice program opened in November 2020, with 31 teams from companies or educational institutions from 17 US states, and it’s not over yet: NASA said that future phases could move from concept presentation to concept development. Hardware.