The initial link in the ISRU (In-Situ Resource Utilization) process chain on the Moon is always the investigation of the area where a mission is to be conducted, whether it involves infrastructure or regolith processing aimed at producing construction materials or extracting resources and water.
Embarking on missions without conducting preliminary exploration poses inherent risks. Without a comprehensive understanding of the subsurface conditions in the designated areas, uncertainties arise regarding the availability of necessary resources and the potential challenges associated with extraction. This lack of pre-existing knowledge increases the likelihood of encountering unforeseen obstacles and complications during project execution.
Satellite-based remote sensing data (e.g., the GRAIL mission) are insufficient because their resolution is not high enough to explore the near subsurface. What our customers need are local, near-surface, high-resolution geological models and precise mapping of the future mission area.
Therefore, on Earth, we rely on geophysical methods such as ground-penetrating radar or seismic surveys to conduct preliminary exploration and gather all the essential data. This is always the first step and serves as the foundation for project planning. We should not deviate from this approach when it comes to the Moon.
We present to you some use cases to outline the scope of IMENSUS as a geological service provider.
The Moon's regolith serves as the foundation for numerous missions and projects. Therefore, determining the potential volume of regolith that can be extracted in the assigned or acquired license area is of crucial importance.
The precise mapping of the license area by satellite allows the calculation of its total surface area. However, estimating the volume of regolith requires knowing the thickness of the regolith layer.
Do you have enough regolith available in your assigned or acquired license area? Even if the quantity is present, it remains uncertain whether you can extract it without issues.
Larger boulders can be mapped using satellites. However, smaller boulders and rocks as well as minor faults, fractures and gaps can only be surveyed on-site.
Additionally, boulders, rocks, minor faults, fractures, gaps, and especially voids may be concealed by the surface regolith.
To plan the technology for regolith extraction effectively, precise knowledge of these geological obstacles is essential.
The demands on technology on the Moon are severe. In addition to the extreme temperature fluctuations between lunar day and night, there is also the constant bombardment of radiation and unrelenting impacts from tiny particles. Another significant hazard arises from the dust during movement on the regolith. The greatest concern for dust exposure is anticipated during the extraction of regolith. This dust generation should be measured and estimated beforehand to tailor the technology to the license area accordingly.
The sun serves as the ultimate energy source for the emerging lunar industry, but it's not always ideal to extract materials where it shines.
If one intends to extract regolith with bound water from the interior of a crater, rovers must navigate the crater slope both down and up multiple times - as the processing takes place where the sun is present.
However, to plan this effectively, the slope stability of the crater wall must be meticulously examined. While we may have less gravity, it's not without its challenges, as overloading the slope can trigger landslides. This could have dramatic consequences for the mission.
To land safely in your assigned or acquired license area you need precise knowledge about boulders, rocks, as well as minor faults, fractures, gaps and similar features. These can only be mapped on-site.
Additionally, there is a risk of voids concealed under the regolith that could collapse during the intense pressure of landing. As a result, the ground might yield more beneath one landing foot than the others, causing the landing module to tilt dangerously.
The precise mapping of the landing area and a comprehensive understanding of the subsurface are crucial for a safe landing.
In the initial decades of the emerging lunar economy, the primary focus will be on infrastructure development. Among these, landing pads designed for safe landings with minimal dust disturbance form a key element. The landers are also getting larger and heavier as launch costs continue to decrease. The Starship by SpaceX is setting new standards as a lander.
If the landing pad is to be constructed on solid ground, the regolith must first be cleared, subject to the aforementioned challenges.
If the landing pad is to be built on strongly compacted regolith, the compaction and other geological parameters of the regolith must be measured beforehand.
If the landing pad is to be built on or just above the regolith, it requires a solid anchoring in the ground. This anchoring must penetrate the regolith layer and the highly fragmented rock layer and be embedded into the bedrock. For this, precise knowledge of the respective layer thicknesses and the form of the layers is crucial to plan the anchoring accurately.
The same principles apply to all larger structures on the lunar surface.
Feel free to reach out, and together we can explore which geological data might be relevant for you, identify potential geological risks, and discuss how we can assist you in preparing for your mission or during your mission.