With rising public and commercial enthusiasm for mining asteroids and the Moon and enabling in situ resource utilization on Mars, there is an important question that must be addressed: How does one dig on Mars, the Moon, or an asteroid?
It’s not a trivial question. Earth gravity plays a critical role in the mechanisms we use for moving dirt on this planet. Using the same mechanisms on bodies with low gravity could result in launching the digger into space.
NASA is exploring one solution to this problem, by the name of RASSOR. RASSOR, for Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot, is a digging robot that using rotators moving in opposing directions to balance forces across the machine. Here is a TechBriefs profile of RASSOR and its lead technologist at Kennedy Space Center, Rob Mueller.