Is the dismantling of the moon feasible?

Concept for mining on the moon from the Montanuni Leoben

Washington / Leoben - If the soaring plans of various nations do not fail, in a few decades the moon and Mars will be the first celestial bodies on which man will set up manned stations. The focus will also be on the extraction of natural resources. Some companies see it as a lucrative business in the face of dwindling earthly resources.

The US space agency Nasa has now announced an international competition for a mining drum for robotic mining on the moon. Three students from the Montanuniversität Leoben used the limited exit time to present a corresponding concept.

Challenges to conveyor technology

"The trend in science in connection with raw material extraction is heading towards unexplored realms: the depths of the sea, swamps, in the very northern zones, areas where humans can no longer be there. These are challenges that conveyor technology has to face ", explained the Leoben conveyor technician Eric Fimbinger from the chair for mining science, mining technology and mining economics.

When NASA recently announced an international challenge with a moon scenario, "we couldn't resist," said Fimbinger. The task was to construct a drum for mining fine rock layers on the moon.

The desired drum should be used on a mobile lunar robot and not only break down lunar rocks and lunar dust (regolith), but also store them and discard them at a desired location. "The challenge starts with the low gravity, it is only one sixth of the gravity of the earth, the device should be robust and as maintenance-free as possible," said Fimbinger, describing the complex challenges.

Finished concept in ten days

The team did not find out about the tender until late. In the midst of the Corona crisis, Fimbinger put together a team of students who delivered the finished concept with illustrations and simulations within ten days. "Designing and constructing - that went really well in those days of the Corona crisis, Andreas Taschner, Dominik Höber and Stephan Weißenböck couldn't make better use of the time," praised the Leoben lecturer, who accompanied the student team on the scientific side. Now we are excited to see how the concept is received by NASA.

In any case, the feedback from the students was very motivating: Two of the students are so "infected" by the topic that they now want to use it for a bachelor's or master's thesis. (red, APA, 3.5.2020)