Work Force Requirements

Lunar mining should be capital- intensive rather than labor- intensive. Human participation will rapidly increase cost and decrease the margin of profit. Human tending should be restricted to periodic maintenance, repair, and relocation. Routine mining operations should not require human operators.

Low Weight and Cost

It will be an asset if the mining equipment chosen for lunar resource extraction is not of the scale, in mass or dollars, common to current open-pit vehicles, such as power shovels and haulage trucks. Because of the modest soil-moving requirements, the equipment transported to the Moon need not be excessively massive or costly. There are, however, several good reasons for making excavation equipment heavy. Among these are traction, stability, and digging force. It may well be possible and desirable to design equipment so that weight can be added on the Moon (using lunar soil or rock, for instance). This may represent an unusual (and interesting) equipment design problem.

Equipment Testing

Rapid deployment of a lunar mining system will require that the entire system be thoroughly tested at full scale on Earth before it is launched to the Moon. All aspects of the system from software to hardware should be tested in a simulated lunar environment. Good understanding of the effects of.. reduced gravity and hard vacuum on the system is essential. Changes to the system during development and testing most be coordinated to ensure processing plant compatibility.

Conclusions

Lunar mining requirements are not appear to be excessively demanding in terms of volume of material processed. It seems clear,- however, that the labor-intensive practices that characterize terrestrial mining will not suffice at the low-gravity, hard-vacuum, and inaccessible sites on the Moon. New research efforts are needed in three important areas. First, to develop high-speed, high-resolution through-rock vision systems that will permit more detailed and efficient mine site investigation and characterization. Second, to investigate the impact of lunar conditions on our ability to convert conventional mining and exploration equipment to lunar prototypes. Third, to develop telerobotic or fully robotic mining systems for operations on the Moon and other bodies in the inner solar system.

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Curator: Al Globus
NASA Responsible Official: Dr. Ruth Globus
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