UA lunar mission secures funding from NASA for no “minor” exploits


TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – A team from the University of Arizona is digging new territory with half a million dollars in funding from NASA.

UA aerospace and mining engineers are working together to develop a plan for mining on the moon.

Jekan Thanga is Associate Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Arizona.

“The ultimate goal is permanent establishment. A second home outside of Earth, on the moon, ”Thanga said.

Thanga heads the Space and Earth Robotic Exploration Laboratory (SpaceTRex) and the ASTEROIDS (Asteroid Science, Technology and Exploration Research Organized by Inclusive eDucation Systems) lab supported by NASA.

Thanga said he started exploring the idea of ​​creating a second home on the moon when he was in school. This project has therefore been underway for more than 20 years.

So what would a house on the moon look like?

“The goal is to have full-size sandbags that are modern, not something you’d get in decades, used for emergencies, floods. This is one of the projects that the students are looking at, ”Thanga said.

Thanga said that with limited water and extreme conditions on the moon, sandbags may be the best option for homes and quick shelters.

The team said their autonomous robots could do the building.

“What we’re trying to do is make the robots do the dirty, the boring, the dangerous. That way humans can focus on the things that are most interesting, ”Thanga said.

Thanga said he was closer than ever to launching these robots thanks to the collaboration of the AU Department of Mining and Geological Engineering.

Moe Momayez is the interim head of the department who says he’s ready to take on the challenge.

“We need lunar mining to use the moon as a base to launch missions to other planetary bodies,” Momayez said.

“I never thought I would be mining on the moon, but I’m a Star Trekker enthusiast and I can talk for hours about the aspirations I received from Star Trek. It has helped me. to develop some technologies, ”said Momayez.

The extreme conditions of the moon present many obstacles.

“Temperatures rise over 200 degrees under the scorching sun, or below 150 degrees at night. The other factors are of course the high radiation and then you have the moon dust, which is very fine; it’s billions of years old, it’s very glassy, ​​”Thanga said.

“Even the Apollo astronauts had a great deal of difficulty dealing with these conditions,” Thanga said.

Not to mention finite resources like water and air, which require a lot of mining, at least for now.

“The excitement for me is finding new ways to break rocks more efficiently with very little water,” Momayez said.

Momayez said lunar mining is the way of the future and worth the investment.

By learning to mine with limited resources on the moon, these experts said they could discover a more economical and productive method to use here on Earth.

The team said their development of modern sandbags could also be used as emergency shelters on Earth.

“Aerospace, especially the space program, is now going through another golden age, so we’re very excited about it. With all of this lunar effort, I think the most important thing is that the US government have a firm plan to come back, ”Momayez said.

NASA gave the team $ 500,000 to spend on advancing methods of space exploration.

Yinan Xu is a master’s student at the University of Arizona, whose main focus is robotic arms.

His curriculum vitae, which includes his role in this project, earned him an internship on robotic arms within the agency itself, helping to finance this mission.

“Yes, I did an internship at NASA. I am super excited; I’ve never been there before and it’s also NASA, ”said Xu.

As for their timeline, their team is hoping the robots could be up and running within the next ten years.

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