Video: How Can Drilling Engineers Help Revolutionize Space Transport and Colonize the Solar System: Focusing on Lunar Water-Ice
- Deep Joshi (Colorado School of Mines) | Alfred Eustes (Colorado School of Mines) | Jamal Rostami (Colorado School of Mines) | Colby Gottschalk (Colorado School of Mines) | Christopher Dreyer (Colorado School of Mines) | Wenpeng Liu (Colorado School of Mines) | Zachary Zody (Colorado School of Mines) | Claire Bottini (Colorado School of Mines)
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- Society of Petroleum Engineers
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- 2019. Copyright is retained by the author. This presentation is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this video.
- Lunar Drilling, Extraterrestrial Drilling, ISRU, Drilling data analytics
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Water is considered the ‘oil of space’ with applications ranging from fuel production to colony consumption. Recent findings suggested the presence of water-ice in the Permanently shadowed craters on Lunar poles. This water present on the Moon and other planetary bodies can significantly bring down the cost of space exploration, fueling the colonization of the solar system. With low-resolution orbital data available, the next step is to drill and analyze samples from the Moon.
An extensive review of drilling systems designed by NASA was conducted focusing on the effect of different planetary environments on the drill design. Inspired by this and the drilling systems developed in the petroleum industry, an auger based rotary drilling rig was designed and fabricated with an extensive high-frequency data acquisition system, measuring all essential drilling parameters. Several analog rocks were cast with regolith simulant grout to replicate different subsurface geotechnical properties in the Lunar polar craters. The drill was tested on samples with different geotechnical properties to account for the varying properties expected in the Lunar poles.
Application of the drilling engineering concepts has resulted in the development of a robust drilling system capable of replicating drilling process for different planetary environments like the Moon and Mars. Using the data acquisition system on the rig, an advanced machine learning algorithm capable of processing and analyzing the real-time high-frequency drilling data to estimate a sample's geotechnical properties and water content was created. The evolving algorithm was developed based on initial drilling tests on homogenous and heterogeneous analogs. It was tested on samples with varying heterogeneity to estimate the geotechnical properties and the water content accurately. With some modifications, this algorithm can be applied in the Lunar and Martian missions to estimate the geotechnical properties in real-time, without the need to analyze the subsurface samples on the surface. This can result in a cost-effective exploration of water-ice resources on the Moon and Mars, kickstarting the space resources industry and the human colonization on those planetary bodies. The expertise of the drilling engineers in designing and executing wells in extreme terrestrial environments can help create significantly effective drilling systems for extraterrestrial environments.
This work details the design considerations to drill on the Moon and other planetary bodies focusing specifically on the application of drilling data to evaluate geotechnical properties and water content at Lunar polar conditions. The techniques developed here might pay a vital role in understanding the extent and composition of water-ice on the Moon, leading to efficient colonization of the solar system.