NASA recently awarded University of Arizona researchers $114,000 to develop ways to harvest water in space.
Led by researchers in the College of Engineering, the mission focuses on harvesting water from the lunar surface, and is being worked on in conjunction with researchers at the Colorado School of Mines.
The water-harvesting mission involves combining laser power with FemtoSats – tiny, disposable satellites about the size of a stick of butter developed in the UArizona SpaceTREx Laboratory.
"Students are actually building an entire system, which is very rare to do, particularly in the field of aerospace," said Jekan Thanga, AME assistant professor and head of the SpaceTREx Laboratory. "Our project is a stepping stone to building up the necessary technologies to prospect and extract water on the lunar surface."
In the proposed mission, a lander-mounted laser will touch down on the surface of the moon and launch the FemtoSats to different points on the lunar surface using a jack-in-the-box-like mechanism. The FemtoSats will receive the signal from the laser and transmit it back to demonstrate the validity of using the laser for communication.
UArizona students involved in the project include graduate student Alvaro Diaz and undergraduates Matthew Johnson and Viru Vilvanathan – all in the College of Engineering.