NASA chooses location for the first mining experiment on the Moon

The NASA chose a crater in the south pole of the moon to try to remove ice from the surface.

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A ridge not far from Shackleton Crater on the Moon’s south pole  has been chosen by NASA  as the destination for an ice-mining experiment connected to a robotic lander.

This mission, developed jointly with Intuitive Machines, will be launched in late 2022.

NASA data from spacecraft orbiting the Moon indicate that this location, known as the “Shackleton connecting ridge,” could have ice below the surface . The area receives enough sunlight to power a lander for a mission of about 10 days, while providing a clear line of sight to Earth for constant communications. It is also near a small crater, which is great for a robotic excursion.

These conditions offer the best chance of success for the three on-board technology demonstrations. This includes NASA- funded Polar Resource Ice Mining Experiment 1 (PRIME-1), which consists of the simulation paired with a mass spectrometer, a 4G / LTE communications network developed by Nokia of America Corporation and Micro- Nova, a deployable hopper robot developed by Intuitive Machines.

“PRIME-1 is permanently connected to Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander, and finding a landing site where we could discover ice within three feet of the surface was a challenge,” Dr. Jackie Quinn said in a statement, PRIME-1 project manager at NASA Kennedy Center.

“While there is a lot of sunlight to power the payloads, the surface gets too hot to hold the ice within reach of the PRIME-1 rig . We needed to find a ‘goldilocks’ site that gets enough sunlight to meet the requirements. of the mission and, at the same time, be a safe place to land with good ground communications. “

Why in this part of the Moon?

To select this final landing location, experts from NASA, Arizona State University, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Nokia, and Intuitive Machines created “ice mining” maps of the lunar surface using data from lunar remote sensing.

After landing, the PRIME-1 drill , known as the Regolith Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain (TRIDENT), will attempt to drill down to a meter deep, extract lunar soil, called regolith, and deposit it on the surface for analysis of the Water. PRIME-1’s other instrument , the Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo), will measure volatile gases that easily escape from TRIDENT excavated material.

PRIME-1 will be the first demonstration of search and extraction of resources on the Moon . Advancing these types of technologies is critical to establishing a strong, long-term presence in deep space, including on the Moon as part of the agency’s Artemis missions. Simply operating and drilling on the rugged lunar surface will provide engineers with valuable information for future lunar missions, such as the VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) mission, which is scheduled to land at the lunar South Pole in late 2023. NASA reports in a statement.

While PRIME-1 will investigate resources beneath the lunar surface, Nokia will set out to test its space-hardened 4G / LTE network. A small rover developed by Lunar Outpost will venture more than a mile from the Nova-C lander and test Nokia’s wireless network at various distances. The rover will communicate with a base station located at Nova-C, and the lander will communicate the data to Earth. This demonstration could pave the way for a commercial 4G / LTE system for mission-critical communications on the lunar surface. This includes communications and even high-definition video streaming from astronauts to base stations, vehicles to base stations, and more.

Nearby, the Intuitive Machines Micro-Nova will aim to deploy on the surface and jump into a nearby crater to acquire images and scientific data before jumping. Then it will send the data to Nova-C. Micro-Nova can carry a 900 gram payload over 1.5 miles to access lunar craters and enable high-resolution survey of the lunar surface. This demonstration could help pave the way for additional commercial lunar exploration services. In the future, scientists may have the opportunity to equip a hopper with their own small scientific instruments, such as cameras, seismometers, lunar measurement systems, and more.