Press Release

NASA Glenn Tests Planetary Excavation Tools and Vehicles

By SpaceRef Editor
December 8, 2010
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CLEVELAND — Media are invited to attend a demonstration of digging equipment and mining vehicles for planetary surface material on Thursday, Dec. 9 at 10 a.m. at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

Sponsored by NASA’s Partnerships, Innovation and Commercial Space Division, Glenn and the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology, or NORCAT, are conducting tests that simulate the mining of planetary surface materials with the goal of turning the captured materials into life-sustaining resources. NORCAT is a Canadian mining and space technology firm based in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, and is funded by the Canadian Space Agency in their work with NASA.

“On the moon and eventually on asteroids and Mars, surface material will be mined for processing to produce oxygen, water and other valuable resources meant to dramatically reduce the cost of space travel,” says Glenn’s Chief of the Space Environment and Experiments Branch, Kurt Sacksteder.

The testing is taking place this week in Glenn’s Simulated Lunar Operations, or SLOPE, facility, a sandbox approximately 20 foot wide by 60 foot long that simulates extra-terrestrial planetary soil conditions for vehicle traction and excavation experiments. For the week of tests, NORCAT will provide excavation tools and mining vehicles to precisely measure the force and electrical power needed for planetary surface mining.

NORCAT’s results will then be compared to NASA’s results from similar experiments held in the Arizona desert earlier this year. The data gained from the testing will be used to compare and validate computer simulations of planetary surface excavation systems. The computer models will be used to predict the hardware mass and power consumption needed to conduct mining operations and the production of oxygen and water in extraterrestrial locations.

These tests are the first tests under a three-year collaboration between Glenn and NORCAT to develop mining and processing technology to harvest space resources in support of human and robotic exploration.

Media representatives interested in attending the event may contact Sandra Nagy or the Media Relations Office at 216-433-2901 by 9 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 9 to obtain security clearance.

For more information about Glenn, visit:

For more information about the SLOPE facility, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.