Scientists believe that the permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) on the Moon contain reserves of ice, which can be transformed into rocket fuel and drinkable water to support lunar exploration in the Artemis Program. But PSRs are challenging to explore: they are extremely cold, receive no sunlight, contain challenging terrain, and have limited or no line of sight to the lunar surface. To support the operations of robots and humans exploring lunar PSRs, MIT has designed and developed a lunar tower known as MELLTT, the Multifunctional Expandable Lunar Lightweight Tall Tower. MELLTT is designed to be deployed near a permanently shadowed region (PSR) to logistically support robotic and human exploration. The upper bus at the top of the tower provides lines of sight into the PSR and the surrounding region, making it an ideal mounting point for radio, imaging, power beaming and navigation payloads. MELLTT was awarded $163,000 by NASA to develop a prototype for the 2020 NASA BIG Idea Challenge, which concluded in January 2021. The team is continuing to develop the concept.
Opportunities for Engagement with the Project:
For the lunar tower BIG Idea team, the team is encouraging project team members to develop applications for the tower to bolster the payload concept.
Applications could be in areas related to:
radio relay to assets in or near permanently shadowed regions
regional area data networks
high-bandwidth optical comms, point-to-point on lunar surface
Students interested in developing applications would still have contact with the BIG IDEA team and work closely with the team for integration and testing as well as platform validation.