Building an Excavating Martian Robot that can be used for Utilizing Resources on Extraterrestrial Locations

Raised of $3,309 Goal
Ended on 12/06/16
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About This Project

NASA missions to Mars have found ice water and other beneficial resources on Mars. Capturing these resources are the key to allow humans to “live off the land” or, in scientific terms, in situ resource utilization(ISRU). But first these resources must be excavated. Our team is building a robot that would be completely autonomous and would be able to traverse martian land. It would excavate resources that would be beneficial to the astronauts.

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What is the context of this research?

Resources critical to supporting space colonization and other long duration missions have been found to exist on most bodies in our solar system. The nearest body external to Earth, for example, has been found to have water around its poles as well as Helium-3 which is useful for nuclear fusion. In the near future, humanity’s presence in space will be expanded beyond the six people living in the space station today. Our research supports this movement.

What is the significance of this project?

The significance of our project lies in evaluating the effectiveness of mining methods on bodies such as the Moon and Mars. Our team studies the mechanical, electrical, and computational aspects of robotics. We use our knowledge base and skills to construct excavation robots and test them to find a more profitable balance between material mining, power consumption, system tolerance to dust and other environmental influences, and bandwidth usage. Our team also works to create a fully functional autonomous robot that can traverse the martian and lunar landscape without human control.

What are the goals of the project?

Our objective is to build a fully autonomous excavation robot specifically designed to mine the first two layers of the lunar surface reaching a depth of two to three feet. The robot will be optimized in terms of weight, energy usage and excavation functionality. Some of the features that our robot will have are a welded aluminum frame which will be light weight and verified to be structurally sound through finite element analysis testing. Our robot will be running off of 2x 24V batteries, and controlled through Talon SRX speed controllers, and a Novena Board through CANbus. Using these, we will try to minimize energy usage while attempting to perfect autonomy.


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These items on the budget will be used to build the robot. Each of these parts are detrimental for our robot. We are currently working towards find other sources of funding, but have not had much luck yet as because it is nearing the end of the fiscal year.

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This Project is very interesting that these members bring a lot of excitement to this project.

Meet the Team

Tashi Atruktsang
Tashi Atruktsang

Tashi Atruktsang

I am an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Engineering Mechanics and Aeronautics. I was raised in a Tibetan refugee camp in India for the initial part of my life. I then moved to Madison, Wisconsin and have lived here ever since. I was introduced to engineering and rocketry during high school when I joined the Madison West High School Rocket Club. In my time there I place 5th in Nationals, 1st in Nationals and 2nd in Internationals. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I founded the Badger Lunar Mining Team and I also helped create a rocketry organization. I am currently the President of the AIAA/ SEDS UW-Madison Chapter, and President of the Robotics team on campus.

Additional Information

[1] A. D. S. Olson, J. F. Santarius, and G. L. Kulcinski, “Design of a Lunar Solar Wind Volatiles Extraction System,” in AIAA SPACE 2014 Conference and Exposition, 2014.

[2] Grant H. Heiken, David T. Vaniman, Bevan M. French, “Lunar Sourcebook,” in Cambridge University Press, 2012.

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