If you think you have seen it all, take a look at this invention: a team of young Polish engineers (some of them are still studying!) have designed a drill for asteroid mining. This drill will be launched into space a month from now, and – if the tests prove it works as desired – it has the potential to become the go-to tool for mining in microgravity conditions.
This ambitious project is called DREAM (DRilling Experiment for Asteroid Mining). The “space drill” prototype took one and a half years to build, and required cooperation with both the European Space Agency and the Wrocław University of Science and Technology. The machine is unique at a global scale, as it allows for drilling in vacuum and hence for extraction of valuable resources from virtually any asteroid. This will have a meaningful impact on space mining, which is considered prospective because of the presence of rare resources such as gold, platinum or tantalum in many celestial objects.
The DREAM team has seven members. They all have significant experience in space projects – they have built Mars rovers, designed space missions and Mars habitats. All of them met while working on a project of a balloon probe that analyzed the presence of freon in the stratosphere.
Their space drill will be launched to space in March from Esrange Space Center, located near Kiruna in northern Sweden. The team is currently collecting funding for the travel to cosmodrome and for the launch preparations on odpalprojekt.pl, a Polish crowdfunding portal. Their drill will only have 20 seconds in microgravity to perform all necessary tests.
“Here, on Earth, we know how the dust behaves while we’re drilling. If we drill in the ceiling, it will fall on our heads. Generally, the dust will move downwards, because this is how the gravity works. In space, it’s not that easy. How will the dust particles behave? In which direction will they go? With what speed? At what angle? We will know that shortly,” said Jędrzej Kowalewski, one of the team members.
If you’re not convinced to support their project yet, watch the video!