Sat 13 August 2022:
The US space agency NASA, has invited university students to create a pathway for producing metal on the Moon, from mining metal from lunar materials to creating tools and structures.
According to a statement from NASA, the capacity to mine metal and develop necessary infrastructure on the Moon promotes the Artemis Programme’s objective of a long-term human presence on the lunar surface.
“Here at home, forging metal has long been a key part of building our homes and infrastructure, and the same holds true as we work towards a sustained presence on the Moon,” said Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).
Teams should also identify what systems they assume will be in place to support their proposed concept, as well as consider incorporating mechanisms to enable efficient operation on the Moon, including lunar dust mitigation, thermal management, and realistic power considerations. (NASA image)
“This challenge gives students the opportunity to help develop the future technology that will help us find, process, and manufacture with metal on the lunar surface,” Werkheiser added.
Teams of at least five and no more than 25 must be composed of students and faculty at U.S.-based colleges and universities affiliated with their state’s Space Grant Consortium. Non-Space Grant-affiliated colleges and universities may partner with a Space Grant-affiliated institution.
The 2023 Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-Changing (BIG) Idea Challenge invites university students to tackle some of the most critical needs facing space exploration and help create the mission capabilities that could make new discoveries possible.
In order to enable metal manufacturing on the Moon, student teams will devise novel methods for extracting and converting metals from minerals found there, such as ilmenite and anorthite.
“NASA is already thinking about supporting longer-term missions to the Moon. This BIG Idea Challenge theme links university teams to the push toward sustained human presence on the Moon and on other planets,” said Tomas Gonzalez-Torres, Space Grant project manager in NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement.
The NASA-funded challenge provides development awards of up to $180,000 to up to eight selected teams to build and demonstrate their concept designs and share the results of their research and testing at the culminating forum in November 2023.
Because derived metals are available on the Moon, infrastructure for a lunar colony, such as pipelines, power cables, landing pads, transport tracks, and pressure vessels to retain volatiles like fuel, might be created locally using additive manufacturing, or 3D printing.
Teams are invited to submit proposals for technologies needed along any point in the lunar metal product pipeline, including, but not limited to:
■ Metal detecting
■ Metal refining
■ Forming materials for additive manufacturing
■ Testing and qualifying 3D printed infrastructure for use on the Moon
■ Drilling, excavation, and transportation of mined materials are excluded from this challenge
A non-binding notice of intent is due Sept. 30, 2022.
SOURCE: INDEPENDENT PRESS AND NEWS AGENCIES
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