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.

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Merryl Azriel

Merryl Azriel

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Having wandered into professional writing and editing after a decade in engineering, science, and management, Merryl now enjoys reintegrating the dichotomy by bringing space technology and policy within reach of an interested public. After three years as Space Safety Magazine’s Managing Editor, Merryl semi-retired to Visiting Contributor and manager of the campaign to bring the International Space Station collaboration to the attention of the Nobel Peace Prize committee. She keeps her pencil sharp as Proposal Manager for U.S. government contractor CSRA.