Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
NASA is asking the public to help improve its lunar mining robot RASSOR (Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot). RASSOR is a tele-operated space robot capable of effectively mining and hauling regolith material in extremely low gravity.
The RASSOR Bucket Drum Design Challenge calls for redesigning the robot’s bucket drum, a component that captures and retains regolith for transport to a storage facility. Specifically, NASA wants a better shape for the bucket drum and baffling (the sheet metal inside the bucket that captures regolith) to capture more material, and improve retention and efficiency while loading and unloading it.
Lunar mining for ISRU (in-situ resource utilization) will be an important step for establishing a human presence on the Moon—NASA’s primary directive under the new Artemis program. Lunar regolith will be a critical resource for building infrastructure and sustaining future astronauts.
RASSOR’s current design has already been tested using various configurations in a lunar simulant arena at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. For the new design, NASA says a successful bucket drum will have regolith fill ratios exceeding 50%.
GrabCAD, a website that allows the public to post 3D models, is hosting the NASA challenge. Eligible individuals may submit an original design not previously published, exhibited, or produced. All entries will be judged according to specific criteria including design elements, measurements, and regolith-capturing ability. Submissions will be accepted through April 20, 2020, and the top five will receive awards totaling $7,000.
For more information about the challenge and submitting designs, visit https://www.nasa.gov/feature/help-nasa-design-a-robot-to-dig-on-the-moon.