The researchers noted that for a permanent presence on a space object, astronauts must use the resources on it. This applies to Mars and the Moon, despite the fact that this object is not so far away, unlike the planets of our solar system. At the same time, sending cargo in space is expensive and inefficient, given that many resources are already on the planets or the Moon.
The permanently shaded lunar craters at the satellite’s south pole contain a mixture of dust, rocks and significant concentrations of water ice. If this ice is extracted, it can be turned into breathable oxygen, rocket fuel, or water for astronauts. Mining and clearing dirty lunar ice is not an easy task, which is why NASA is interested in atypical solutions that can be scaled up.
The agency has announced a competition to solve the problem of mining lunar ice – one of the most promising developments offers to solve this problem with the help of a large robot, powerful vacuum cleaners and a rocket engine used as a drilling system. The full name of the system is Resource Ore Concentrator.
This method destroys the soil with a series of rocket boosters that liquefy the icy regolith by directly heating it. It uses a pressurized canopy rocket engine – it provides mining at a depth of more than 2 m.During this process, the fossils rise up into the dome and enter the funnel of the vacuum system, which separates ice particles from the remaining dust and transfers it to containers for storage.