The Andy Thomas Centre for Space Resources (ATCSR) mission is to support long-term human presence in deep space using the resources we find along the way. This means using resources like water and the lunar regolith (the meters thick layer of lunar dirt covering the surface of the Moon) to provide astronauts with oxygen, drinking water, and propellant, as well as building materials for lunar infrastructure. Using locally sourced resources allows us to reduce costs, increase our exploration activities, and sustainably provide crews with life support replenishment, radiation protection, and enhanced longevity of their various pieces of critical infrastructure brought all the way from the surface of the Earth.
In support of Australian Space Agency contributions to the NASA Artemis program, the ATCSR is partnering with other global leaders in the nascent lunar civil engineering and construction field to provide Australian students, government and industry the first lunar and Martian surface testing capability in Australia. Here, in the heart of Adelaide, high-fidelity testing of individual payloads up to and including complete robotic systems can occur in location specific environments using a full library of specially designed simulants such as lunar mare and highland, Martian equatorial and polar, and asteroid destinations. Located within the Civil, Environmental, and Mining Engineering School, state-of-the-art research includes how to locally create and construct habitable structures and build landing pads, roads, and berms, which will be required to facilitate the planned aggregation of surface infrastructure required to support NASA’s plans to return humans to the Moon, this time “to stay”.
These research efforts will ultimately support the potential for human communities to flourish elsewhere in the solar system. As a result, the University of Adelaide has created a Deep Space Habitation Group – a professions and social science led team – to better understand the impacts this development could have regarding issues related to governance, health care delivery, psychological support, employment, recreation, law, and architecture. By bringing together thought leaders from numerous non-traditional space disciplines, it provides a rare capability to research complex social science issues emerging from nascent deep space settlement by leveraging the talents of a globally unique interdisciplinary group.
Waite Research Institute (WRI), a global leader in agricultural technology innovation, and its team of cutting-edge researchers is addressing the challenge of ensuring astronauts have dependable access to healthy nutritious food. However, during a multi-year mission, to Mars, the asteroid belt, or beyond, the application of ag-tech solutions to address deep space challenges is not only confined to the provision of food.
Critically, feedback from astronaut partners underscores the dramatic enhancement to social and mental health resulting from the care and growth of living things. In addition, the potential to utilise plants as bio-reactors, growing “on demand” products such as tailored medicines or material for use in additive manufacturing would represent yet another revolutionary enabler for space exploration.
WRI is leading research efforts in support of providing for astronauts physical and mental wellbeing as well as material requirements. Research outcomes will also be of benefit for food production in confined and remote spaces, such as submarines and Antarctic facilities.
All of the above research efforts promise to deliver benefits terrestrially with regard to increasing energy efficiency, transportation, farming, waste reduction, and improvements to human and environmental health.
Whether you are a prospective student wishing to join our space research efforts or industry looking for a cutting-edge partner situated next to Lot 14 and the Australian Space Agency, please contact the ATCSR for more information.