A Robot Will Mine The Surface Of The Moon

By late 2016, a robotic spacecraft, the size of an average coffee table, will hopefully make a soft landing on the moon, where it will begin mining its lunar surface. The robot in question is part of a contest that will grant its winners a $30 million prize. The objective? To explore the surface of the moon, but also to inspire others to usher in a new age of space exploration.

The most difficult task to be performed in this mission is the soft landing. A successful soft landing occurs when a spacecraft is able to land without causing any damage to the vessel or the items contained within it. This feat has only been achieved on three separate occasions despite various attempts.

The group that is working on this project, the Moon Express, has unique access to NASA through a public-private partnership, which permits them to utilize NASA’s expertise in engineering, as well as in other fields. This also allows them to use the Kennedy Space Center launch facilities when they are ready to send off their finished robot.

Once the robot reaches the moon, it will start mining its surface. Since the map of the moon has already been made, they can direct the robot where they want it to go and use it to mine what could possibly be raw resources in the future, such as rare earth elements, moon rocks, and platinum metals.

However, the biggest opportunity for mining on the moon is to obtain Helium-3. This particular element, although found in a vast supply on the moon, only occurs on Earth in very small amounts. Because Helium-3 is a very clean energy source, it could have an enormous influence on the Earth and on its environment. For example, it could be easily used to fuel nuclear fusion reactors and, in theory, produce enough fuel to run our whole planet’s supply of industries. The Chinese have also announced that they would like to mine this element, should they have the opportunity.

Water on the moon is also an exciting possibility, which could have an enormous impact on space exploration and for astronauts. The moon could potentially function as a station of sorts, where water could be extracted and used to help “fuel-up” rockets, before astronauts continue on their way. Scientists state that when we consider the moon as a part of our Earth and its ecosystem, it allows us to dream bigger and to see the possibilities that may not have been present before.