We propose a low-cost, lightweight autonomous lunar rover platform capable of surviving the cryogenic thermal conditions of the lunar night and permanently-shadowed regions (PSRs) while providing mapping, prospecting, and mobility services to a variety of government and commercial lunar payloads and customers. This rover platform is dubbed the Cryogenic-Operation, Long-Duration Mobile Autonomous Prospecting Platform, or COLD-MAPP. It advances the Science Mission Directorate's Strategic Goals and Objectives of enabling sustainable long-term exploration and utilization of space resources by making possible multi-lunar-day missions into permanently-shadowed regions while using onboard instrumentation (including a compact drill and one or more spectrometers) to prospect for hydrogen-rich resources. This proposal specifically addresses the thermal management system analysis and design, required for COLD-MAPP to survive the lunar night and PSR environments. The thermal management system utilizes novel thermal control technologies to heat COLD-MAPP; these novel technologies include the EarthHeat heat collector to collect radiated heat from the Earth, and the DrillHeat bore-hole heat pipe to capture warmth from lower levels of the lunar regolith where solar heating remains after the lunar sunset. Also proposed is a cryogenically-stable hub motor/wheel drive combination, which will operate while being in constant contact with the lunar regolith over a temperature range of -230C to +150C. Findings and results will be incorporated into a technology demonstration prototype rover suitable for deployment as a payload on commercial landers at the end of Phase II.
NASA applications for the COLD-MAPP are to provide mobility capabilities to instruments and payloads, and add value over a static lander deployment. These payloads include ISRU prospecting instruments and surveying sensors, which can be deployed in flexible and cost-effective campaigns to accelerate the exploitation of ISRU resources. The EarthHeat and DrillHeat thermal collectors can be incorporated into the lunar-night survival strategy for a variety of surface hardware including landers and rovers.
Non-NASA commercial applications for the COLD-MAPP include applications in both the current terrestrial mining industry, as well as in future space-based ISRU commercial concerns. As NASA pursues public-private partnerships, catalogs of demonstrated, high-TRL thermal solutions will serve to retire risk and accelerate schedules of future commercial missions and payloads solicited via CLPS.