Tue, Jul 19, 2016 - Page 1 News List

NASA orders lunar lander from Taiwan

MINING LIFE:The Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology has been tapped by NASA once again, this time for a project to explore the moon’s polar regions

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Taiwan is to play a critical role in NASA’s Resource Prospector mission, which aims to be the first mining expedition on the moon in the early 2020s, and is expected to use a Taiwanese-made lunar lander to excavate water, oxygen and hydrogen.

The Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology is to build an uncrewed lunar lander to carry a rover to polar regions of the moon to mine resources, particularly subsurface water, international program director Han Kuo-chang (韓國璋) said.

The project is the first time Taiwan has participated in a NASA moon mission and it is hoped it will boost the nation’s visibility in the international aerospace industry.

“Taiwan has an outstanding ability to build electronic components and auxiliary systems for spacecraft, but the nation has had little opportunity to participate in space missions, so it has limited space flight history. The participation in NASA’s Resource Prospector mission might earn Taiwan a ticket into the aerospace industry supply chain,” Han said.

The institute is to deliver a lunar lander on a budget of about NT$1.5 billion (US$46.84 million).

It has to select and test commercially available parts that can function in space, where they would be exposed to extreme heat and radiation, Han said.

“It will be Taiwan’s first moon landing mission, and challenges involved in building a lunar lander include analyzing the orbit, controlling lander posture and velocity and landing the vehicle in the desired location where there is no air resistance and little atmospheric pressure. All those are very difficult,” he said.

However, the Resource Prospector mission is not the first time that the institute has worked on a NASA project.

It built the 1 tonne Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer for the International Space Station, which measures antimatter in cosmic rays and searches for evidence of dark matter.

The spectrometer has functioned uninterruptedly since 2011 in an environment where equipment can easily malfunction due to high daily temperature differentials and high-energy cosmic rays.

“The institute’s space computer is one of the most reliable NASA has ever had, which is why NASA chose to collaborate with Taiwan instead of South Korea in the moon-mining mission,” Han said.

The mission is aimed at reducing the cost of deep-space exploration by harvesting the basic building blocks of life and fuel, and generating the components in space.

NASA began exploring whether there was water on the moon in the 1990s and space missions have since proven its existence.

The Resource Prospector mission is to determine if the water can be extracted, Han said.

The rover is to explore polar regions of the moon and areas where sunlight does not reach, because it is believed that is where sub-surface water is most likely to be found.

The moon lander is expected to be completed by 2018 and the mission is expected to be launched in the early 2020s — if it is given the green light.

This story has been viewed 25116 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top