Modeling Excavation, Site Preparation, and Construction of a Lunar Mining Base Using Robot Swarms

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Development of a space economy will require identifying and mining critical resources that will minimize cost and energy usage. The Moon is one potential candidate. It is rich in iron, titanium, and silicon. Water is thought to exist in plentiful supplies in the permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) of the north and south pole of the Moon. Based upon these important findings, we are developing an energy model to determine the feasibility of developing a mining base on the Moon. This mining base extracts and principally exports water, titanium, steel, and aluminum. The Moon has been selected, as there are significant reserves of water theorized to exist at the permanently shadowed crater regions and there are significant sources of titanium, iron, and aluminum throughout the Moon's surface. The focus in this paper is to develop an energy model for ground preparation and construction of the base. The models developed account for excavation, clearing, and flattening of ground material in preparation for assembly of large-infrastructure to support the base, including the mass driver, roads, and rail-lines. In addition, the work will model the energy required for capturing and transporting for construction of the major structures on the base using local materials. Using these energy models, we will then be developing methods to coordinate hundreds of human workers and robots to perform all the excavation, site-preparation, and construction tasks to complete the base. In this paper, we focus on base construction and determine that power generation dominates in terms of base preparation needs. Beyond a certain size of mining base, power generation becomes the dominant factor, bigger than even transport of material by rail from the lunar south pole. Development of these energy models will be critical for us to determine the best locations to anchor and utilize a mining base to extract a series of raw materials for use in a space economy. Based on these studies, we identify that scalable power generation is a critical challenge that needs to be solved to permit large-scale mining and export of resources from the Moon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEarth and Space 2021
Subtitle of host publicationSpace Exploration, Utilization, Engineering, and Construction in Extreme Environments - Selected Papers from the 17th Biennial International Conference on Engineering, Science, Construction, and Operations in Challenging Environments
EditorsPaul J. van Susante, Alaina Dickason Roberts
PublisherAmerican Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
Pages1310-1325
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780784483374
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021
Event17th Biennial International Conference on Engineering, Science, Construction, and Operations in Challenging Environments: Space Exploration, Utilization, Engineering, and Construction in Extreme Environments, Earth and Space 2021 - Seattle, United States
Duration: Apr 19 2021Apr 23 2021

Publication series

NameEarth and Space 2021: Space Exploration, Utilization, Engineering, and Construction in Extreme Environments - Selected Papers from the 17th Biennial International Conference on Engineering, Science, Construction, and Operations in Challenging Environments

Conference

Conference17th Biennial International Conference on Engineering, Science, Construction, and Operations in Challenging Environments: Space Exploration, Utilization, Engineering, and Construction in Extreme Environments, Earth and Space 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySeattle
Period4/19/214/23/21

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering

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