Who Will Build The Roads On The Moon?

The MAHAM Rover

When we think about space, we often think of lavish space stations, hotels on the Moon, and futuristic Mars colonies. But to get there, we first need infrastructure. That’s why a brilliant team of scientists and entrepreneurs came up with the Microwave Assurance Harnessed Asset Machine (MAHAM), an innovative rover that will be able to assemble bricks and construct roads on the Moon.

The team’s idea and construction plan were chosen for further consideration along with 37 others by the European Space Agency (ESA), who is looking for resource utilization technologies that will help achieve sustainable exploration objectives in the next 20 years. With the U.S. planning to send humans back to the Moon in their Artemis program, and China looking at building a robotic outpost, this has become part of a global endeavor for lunar surface missions.

The ESA is looking for both commercial and technological feasibility along with novelty, socioeconomic impact, programmatic coherence, and potential beyond the space sector. The MAHAM Rover meets these requirements. The team includes Vishal Singh and Logan Ryan Golema, founders of space company Lunargistics that was selected for the SBIR funding program in the U.S. Also on the team are Nadia Khan FRSA BEM, who will be attending MIT for her second Masters in Technology & Policy, and Professor Lalit Bhola, who is currently pursuing his Ph.D. from IIT Powai. They will be presenting the project at Space Resource Week on April 20th, 2021. Five to ten of the chosen ideas at the event will head to the next round. The ESA could potentially fund one or multiple projects.

A major problem for machinery on the Moon is that lunar dust on the surface has an electrical charge that hinders solar panel optics on current rovers. The Moon’s surface is made up of dust rich in minerals, metals, and meteoroid debris, and is shaped by erosion due to collisions. About every 15 days, it is hit with a huge meteor shower. The properties of the dust vary drastically over distance, and the dust moves with the Sun. Many astronauts agree, these conditions are among the biggest challenges they encounter while on the Lunar surface.

The innovation of the rover lies in the use of lunar dust for manufacturing via microwave sintering, hence the name MAHAM, which also means ‘Full Moon’ in the Urdu language. The rover has two main features: nano-identification equipment that can test the properties of lunar dust, and a modular microwave sintering furnace with the ability to adjust its microwave frequencies to match the environment. Both work together to convert the Lunar dust into a flat, solid surface. The Lunar Dust Accumulation Analyser was first designed by Vishal Singh and team in 2017. They developed the spectrum idea within the last year. The rover will generate revenue via a toll fee for users.

“We are really excited,” said Mr. Singh. “If we can get funding from the ESA we are going to the moon by 2026.” The rover will have to be manufactured and tested on the Moon from the materials on the surface, but preliminary tests can be conducted on Earth in ESA facilities.

“The Moon is my forte. I’ve always wanted to do construction on the Moon. It will be much easier to get to Mars if we can construct on the Moon first. The Moon will always retain the most interest for space explorers because it provides easier access to our galaxy,” said Mr. Singh.

The rover has the potential to completely change lunar sphere economics. It can save a lot of time and money - two of the most important resources for deep space exploration. For the Moon to truly become a refueling and rest station before further space travel to Mars and other planets, it must have infrastructure like roads and hotels. That’s something that the team is confident they can build.

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