“The idea is to have the robots build, set things up and do all the dirty, boring, dangerous stuff, so the astronauts can do the more interesting stuff,” Thanga said. You may remember Thanga’s name from another sci-fi-sounding idea involving the moon.
A few months ago, he and his students presented conceptual plans for a lunar ark filled with cryogenically frozen seeds, spores, sperm and egg samples from millions of Earth species. They suggested the facility could be built inside existing underground caverns on the moon and serve as a backup copy of sorts for our planet’s biodiversity in the event of global catastrophe.
Momayez insists mining on the moon is not as far-fetched as it sounds. He said he wouldn’t be surprised to see small robots hunting for mineral deposits on the lunar surface within a decade.
Chris Richards/University of Arizona University of Arizona engineering faculty members Moe Momayez, left, and Jekan Thanga have received $500,000 in NASA funding for a new project to advance space-mining methods using swarms of autonomous robots. They’re shown with a low-cost, rapidly designed, 3D-printed rover prototype for testing sensors for use in lunar mining.
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