Space resources: Water exploration on Moon

Natural resources on earth are limited in amount and are currently depleting faster than our planet can replenish them. From making electricity use more efficient to improving recycling systems, there are many things we can do to resolve natural resource depletion. Among these solutions, one of them is to look into space for more natural resources.

To find out more, Waseda’s public relations magazine CampusNow had a short interview with Katsuaki Tanaka, a Waseda alumnus who currently works for a private lunar robotic exploration company called ispace. Accordingly to Tanaka, ispace’s ultimate goal is to expand the sphere of human habitation to space but the first step to realizing it is to look into exploration of water resources on the moon.

Katsuaki Tanaka (left)

“If we could obtain water which can be broken down into oxygen and hydrogen on the moon, we would be able to supply energy to spaceships and satellites from the moon. The water will not only be essential for human beings to live on the moon but can also be used as fuel cell to generate electricity and heat. By doing so, we would also be able to reduce the cost incurred in supplying energy to the moon from the earth by as much as 99%,” said Tanaka.

Tanaka’s main role in his team lies in rover mobility design for moon exploration. In order for robots to explore on the moon, these robots must be able to withstand pressure during a launch and be able to move freely on moon’s unique surface and physical environment. The team is very particular about the overall robotic design and the parts used in moon exploration robots, even to the extent of scrutinizing the type and characteristics of the screws used to hold the robots intact.

“When I was a student, I’ve done research on and developed small robots that can move freely by themselves in forests which are filled with obstacles and uneven surfaces. Such research experience was really a great help in helping me design robots for moon exploration,” said Tanaka on how his research and studies at Waseda were beneficial in his current project.

“Sophisticated technical expertise is required in the aerospace industry. As countries around the world compete in technology in resource development, higher level expertise would be required and seen across countries. As we carry the hope that undiscovered resources would enrich our life, we need to make sure that we possess the latest technology and expertise to compete with the world.”

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