Mining water on the moon: the Wilde* Project

Lunar South Pole, as mapped by the NASA LRO Mission (Photo credit: NASA)

 

Scope

 

This project has as its end goal a mission to process water from the permanently shadowed craters at moon’s poles. That mission must be commercially viable, so only viable mission designs, methodologies and technologies are to be considered. The initial stages of the project are aimed at reducing the risk perceived by e.g. mining companies so that investment in such a mission can proceed. Initially, the mission is proposed for Shackleton crater, at the Moon’s south pole.

 

UNSW Team

 

Researchers from multiple schools and faculties:

Engineering (seven schools):

  • Prof. Andrew Dempster (ASCER/ EET): missions, navigation
  • Prof. Serkan Saydam (MERE): mining methods
  • Prof. Gavin Conibeer (SPREE): photovoltaics, power
  • Prof .Claude Sammut (CSE): robotics (autonomy)
  • Pa/rof. Jay Kutupitiya (MME): robotics (rendezvous)
  • Prof. Francois Aguey-Zinsou (Chem): splitting water
  • Prof Jinhong Yuan (EET): communications
  • Prof Mike Manefield (CVEN/ Chem): biological processing
  • A/Prof Ned Ekins-Daukes (SPREE): photovoltaics

Business:

  • Dr Jeff Couton: business cases

Humanities:

  • A/Prof Matthew Kearnes: ethics

Other Universities:

  • WSU: Prof Steven Freeland: law/ treaties
  • TBD

The dozen or so current off-earth mining PhDs at UNSW are being refocused where possible towards this single mission.

Applying effort to all the chapters identified in [1].

 

Context

  • UNSW established off-earth mining in Australia six years ago
  • Both the space agency and CSIRO now have it as a priority

 

Funding

  •  Plans will be announced early 2019

 

[1] David Kornuta et al (30 authors), “Commercial Lunar Propellant Architecture: A Collaborative Study of Lunar Propellant Production”, United launch Alliance, 2018

 * Significance of Wilde: One of the primary targets of the mission could be the (Ernest) Shackleton Crater, so one of our questions to be answered is the Importance of Being Earnest [sic] (by Oscar Wilde).