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How to Open up the Solar System and Enter the Age of Abundance
ME-EM Graduate Seminar Speaker Series
Michigan Technological University
Abstract: After the last astronauts left the lunar surface in 1972, many people have dreamt of returning. After many robotic missions and learning that the Moon and Mars both contain large amounts of water there is a large international interest in returning sustainably with humans to the surface of the Moon. last year China landed the first ever lander and rover on the far side of the Moon and India and a commercial lunar lander from Israel attempted to land on the Moon. Currently, many new commercial rockets are driving down launch cost/kg and are increasing payload capacity as well as launch frequency. 2020 Should see the first astronauts launched on commercial rockets and the return of human spaceflight from US soil. All these changes are leading up to permanent human presence on the Moon and expeditions to Mars in the near future. The question is what payload to transport on those rockets to create sustainable space exploration and develop a thriving space economy while opening up the solar system and bringing the unlimited energy and resources of space into the economic sphere of Earth. Understanding and developing techniques and robotic tools for those first steps on other planetary surfaces will be crucial to use local resources to start building infrastructure and extracting volatiles and minerals to create useful products such as rocket propellant and construction materials. It is now time to take the next step and develop research into operating under lunar and Mars conditions for long duration mining and construction robotic missions with minimal supervision so we can build the space economy, explore the rest of the solar system sustainably and access the unlimited energy and materials for benefit of everyone on Earth.
Bio: Dr. van Susante grew up in The Netherlands. He graduated with a MSc in Civil Engineering from Delft University of Technology in 2001 with a thesis topic of building large telescopes in the permanently shaded lunar polar craters. He did his internship at the European Space Agency in Noordwijk (ESTEC), The Netherlands. In 2002 he started at the Colorado School of Mines at the invitation of Mike Duke to continue lunar telescope work and received a MSc in Engineering Systems in 2004. Since 2003 he has been involved with in-situ Resource Utilization studies and hardware development and testing, he led the development of a first prototype of a lunar bucket ladder, backhoe and performed regolith simulant property testing for RESOLVE. He was faculty advisor for 5 student teams participating in the NASA lunabotics mining competition from 2008-2012 and now a 6th team at MTU. In 2010 he was a National Space Grant Faculty Fellow at NASA Kennedy Space Center working on lunar landing pad construction methods and testing. His PhD from CSM in 2011 included modeling of lunar regolith excavation forces. He has worked on numerous SBIR/STTR/NIAC and other grants with many aerospace companies and NASA centers on ISRU related research, Lunar and Martian economics and architecture studies. After 7 years as a senior lecturer, he is now an assistant professor at MTU and performs research in the areas of In-situ resource utilization (ISRU) for surface operations on the Moon, Mars and Asteroids. His Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab includes simulation, prototype development and test facilities. His research group and Mining INnovation Enterprise perform research in collaboration with several companies for several funded multi-year NASA grants such as extracting water from gypsum rock and buried glaciers on Mars and water extraction from ice in permanently shadowed craters on the Moon. Other aspects of the research include study and prototyping and testing robotic systems for excavation and construction for infrastructure placement such as trenching, roads, landing pads, bulk material movement and beneficiation of source material.
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