Newswise – Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis are developing a prototype instrument for a future lunar mission Supported by a nearly $3 million grant from NASA.

Jeff Gillis Davisa research professor of physics in the Arts and Sciences, will lead efforts to develop and test a device to measure the chemistry of rocks, minerals, soils and ice on the lunar surface.

The device will be small enough to be carried by a rover or other research robot. It fires laser pulses at its target, heating the rock or ice enough to produce plasma emissions that can instantly determine what elements are present.

This type of information is important for figuring out how much water or other resources are present in a particular location on the Moon.

“This device, with its advanced capabilities, represents a significant leap in lunar exploration instrumentation,” said Gillis-Davis, a university faculty member McDonnell Center for Space Sciences. “Future measurements with this instrument could represent an important step towards a better understanding of water delivery to the Earth-Moon system.

“With our proposed development plan, we expect to be ready for flight hardware production within the next three years, making our device an optimal candidate for NASA’s lunar exploration missions,” Gillis-Davis said.

“Our goal is to revolutionize the capabilities of landers, rovers, hoppers and astronauts by integrating cutting-edge resource exploration technologies,” said Pablo Sobron, founder of a St. Louis-based small business Impossible perception, a co-investigator for the new project. Sobron is a former postdoctoral fellow at Washington University. “By creating detailed, real-time in-situ resource maps, we eliminate the need for traditional regolith sampling and processing.”

In 2026, NASA plans to send astronauts back to the moon as part of its program Artemis Mission.

The space agency observes the moon’s water more than just basic science in view. If humans are able to successfully mine lunar ice, it could be used for drinking or infrastructure purposes. Or it could be split into its elemental components – hydrogen and oxygen – and used as fuel for high-energy rockets. Future lunar refueling stations could transport researchers to locations throughout the inner solar system.

Brad Jolliffthe Scott Rudolph Professor of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences in Arts & Sciences and Director of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, added: “This collaboration underscores the spirit of innovation at Washington University and underscores our commitment to advancing space exploration through cutting .” Cutting-edge research and partnerships.”

This new scholarship was awarded under NASA Development and further development of lunar instrumentation (DALI) Request.

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