The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has been invited by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to test technologies and concepts for lunar exploration. The joint nine-day field test takes place starting this week in a volcanic area near Hilo, Hawaii. A Canadian built rover will test procedures which may ultimately prove that water can be obtained from lunar soil.
The mission has been called RESOLVE, which is short for “Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatile Extraction”. The proper name for lunar soil is regolith, which is what is left over after lunar rocks have been pulverized in to a powder over billions of years of meteorite bombardment.
The project will demonstrate how future explorers could extract water and other useful resources from the lunar soil at potential polar landing sites. Terrestrial field work, like the RESOLVE mission, allows scientific and technical teams to test exploration concepts in a cost-efficient manner to reduce the risks in designing future missions.
The CSA is contributing the following Canadian-built equipment to the NASA RESOLVE field mission:
- The Artemis Junior terrestrial rover will serve as the semi-autonomous mobile platform for payloads, including NASA instruments designed to prospect for water ice and other lunar resources;
- Destin, a versatile onboard drill and sample transfer system; and
- Q6 Stack, an avionics suite consisting of a powerful, low-mass and low-power hybrid processors and interface modules, which will control the RESOLVE system.
The RESOLVE field work will be conducted in an environment similar to the Moon, on the island of Hilo, Hawaii. The lava-covered mountain soil and dust in Hawaii is quite similar to that in the ancient volcanic plains on the Moon.
Artemis Junior in Hawaii for tests. Credit: CSA
Artemis Junior was developed by Ottawa based Neptec and the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT). The Canadian rover’s small size, versatile tools and robust equipment make RESOLVE suitable for any kind of investigation work, whether exploring the Moon or digging into Martian soil.
Having access to water on the Moon will be vital for future lunar explorers. In addition to drinking it, water can be broken down to provide oxygen for breathing and hydrogen to use as a rocket fuel.
Lunar orbiting satellites have detected evidence of water in the past – a rover such as Armetis Junior could be sent to the Moon’s surface to prove that the water is there and accessible.
Although there are no missions to the Moon planned or funded, it is hoped that a smaller version of Armetis Junior may one day land near the Moon’s south pole for a nine-day mission to search for water. The plan is to drill into the lunar surface and heat the material collected to measure the amount of water vapor and other compounds that are present, thus showing how future missions could gather and then use these valuable resources.