Canada’s mining sector is pretty crowded. We now have mines operating in most of the mineral-rich regions of the earth. But the moon? That’s a whole different matter. Mining there is still wide open, and Sudbury’s Deltion Innovations wants to be the first company ever to mine the moon for ice water.
The cost of landing just a litre of water on the lunar surface is currently $250,000—more if you’re trying to get it to an astronaut on a space station. Scientists were thus justifiably excited when probes confirmed the existence of lunar ice water in 2009.
That water has the potential to be separated into oxygen and hydrogen, acting as both fuel and life support for long-term missions. “If you took all the water that remote sensors have detected,” says Deltion CEO Dale Boucher, “and converted it all to rocket fuel, we could launch a shuttle a day for 2,000 years.”
Deltion is aiming to have its drill launch as part of a NASA mission in 2018. The drill, attached to a rover craft, weighs in at just 25 kilograms, and runs on about 100 watts of power. It already has been tested on imitation regolith, or lunar soil, which the company makes, then cools it to the temperature of liquid nitrogen (about -200°C). Before it makes it into space, Deltion’s drill will need the approval of the Canadian Space Agency, which recently awarded the company a contract to further develop its equipment. In the meanwhile, Deltion is also selling its imitation regolith—for just $40,000 per ton.