NASA has awarded Houston Intelligent Machines approximately $ 47 million to deliver a drill accompanied by a mass spectrometer in December 2022 under the agency’s commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. The delivery of the Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment known as PRIME-1 will help NASA find ice at the South Pole of the Moon and, for the first time, harvest ice from the surface.
“We continue to quickly select vendors from our pool of CLPS sellers to ground shipments over the moon, signaling our work to incorporate commercial industry talent into our Moon efforts,” he said. says NASA Science Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen. “The information we get from PRIME-1 and other scientific instruments and technological demonstrations we send to the lunar surface will inform our Artemis missions to astronauts and help us better understand how we can do it. of a sustainable moon presence. “
PRIME-1 will land on the Moon and drill up to 3 feet (approximately 1 meter) below the surface. It measures with a mass spectrometer how much ice in the sample is lost in sublimation as the ice turns from a solid to a vapor in the vacuum of the lunar environment. PRIME-1 drill versions and the Mass Spectrometer observing Lunar Operations, or MSolo, will also fly to VIPER, a mobile robot that will also search for ice at the lunar South Pole in 2023. NASA will take the first woman and next man at the Moon’s South Pole the following year.
“PRIME-1 will give us tremendous insight into the Moon’s resources and how to obtain them,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) in Washington. “Sending this payload to the Moon is a terrific example of our scientific and technological communities teaming up with our commercial partners to generate technological breakthroughs to achieve a range of surface goals of the moon. “
STMD’s Game Changing Development program is funded by PRIME-1. Honeybee Robotics of Pasadena, California, is developing an ice-mining drill. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in partnership with INFICON of Syracuse, New York, is developing a mass spectrometer.
Data from PRIME-1 will help scientists understand the in-situ resources of the Moon. PRIME-1 contributes to NASA’s search for water on the Moon’s poles, supporting the agency’s plans to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by the end of the decade. The early use of PRIME-1 drill and MSolo helps to increase the likelihood of reliable operation of those payloads on VIPER’s mobile platform next year.
Through CLPS initiative, NASA has tapped its commercial partners to quickly land scientific instruments and technology demonstrations on the Moon in the first flights scheduled for next year. A key part of NASA’s Artemis program, CLPS flights will support a range of robotic lunar activities before a person returns to the Moon as well as throughout this decade.