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Mining Support Engineering
This research thrust area comprises the technologies and higher-level architectures required to extract natural geologic resources for human use. This extends from initial characterization of the mineral content of rock, through numerical and analytical models of the material and subsequent processes, to planning the spatiotemporal extraction activities as well as the multi-characteristic beneficiation of the resulting products. Research in this area includes safety, environmental, equipment, and mineral processing.
"Lab Demo & Test of Solar Thermal Asteroid ISRU"
Research Investigator: Dr. Leslie Gertsch
This research will prove the technical validity of using a loosely contained solar thermal furnace tied to a cold trap to separate molecular water and other volatiles from the hydrated minerals found in carbonaceous chondrite asteroids. This will enable water and other useful fluids to be collected in simple, potentially inexpensive systems thereby enabling the practical exploitation of asteroid resources to support human activities in space.