Colorado School of Mines
Mineral and geotechnical exploration often involves drilling to investigate the subsurface conditions and to retrieve samples for pertinent measurements to characterize the ground for the desired application. Exploration drilling is very time consuming and collection, transportation, and testing of the samples is a tedious job and interjects a time lag between the drilling operation and the time where the data is available for analysis. The goal of this project is to develop an intelligent drilling system for material characterization, based on Monitoring While Drilling (MWD) capabilities. This system could be used for surface exploration on the Moon and Mars to a shallow depth and to identify the depth of surface regolith in loose and frozen form, as well as compacted material, and volcanic boulders. This allows for fast and efficient exploration operations where the data and measured target properties of the subsurface materials from the borings are available on real-time basis. There is currently no drilling unit that can offer the material characterization ability that is required to identify the frozen regolith and other anticipated features on the Moon/Mars, thus such a unit needs to be developed using innovative methods adapted by combining advances made in the field by various industries. In this research, the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) research team will draw upon the expertise in drilling for mining and petroleum applications, as well as the field of robotics in mechanical engineering, and top experts in the design of systems for cryogenic conditions to develop an intelligent drilling system for characterization of Lunar / Martian regolith and subsurface formations. The project includes the modification of the drilling robot (Drillbot) at CSM to include the additional sensory systems needed, and update data analysis programs recently developed for characterization of the ground from full scale drilling tests to offer the ability to identify various material types and their strength properties, while drilling on the surface of the Moon/Mars with anticipated operational conditions.