Future in-situ lunar/martian resource utilization and characterization, as well as the scientific search for life on Mars, will require access to the subsurface and hence drilling. Drilling on Earth is hard - an art form more than an engineering discipline. Human operators listen and feel drill string vibrations coming from kilometers underground. Abundant mass and energy make it possible for terrestrial drilling to employ brute-force approaches to failure recovery and system performance issues. Space drilling will require intelligent and autonomous systems for robotic exploration and to support human exploration. Eventual in-situ resource utilization will require deep drilling with probable human-tended operation of large-bore drills, but initial lunar subsurface exploration and near-term ISRU will be accomplished with lightweight, rover-deployable or standalone drills capable of penetrating a few tens of meters in depth. These lightweight exploration drills have a direct counterpart in terrestrial prospecting and ore-body location, and will be designed to operate either human-tended or automated. NASA and industry now are acquiring experience in developing and building low-mass automated planetary prototype drills to design and build a pre-flight lunar prototype targeted for 2011-12 flight opportunities. A successful system will include development of drilling hardware, and automated control software to operate it safely and effectively. This includes control of the drilling hardware, state estimation of both the hardware and the lithography being drilled and state of the hole, and potentially planning and scheduling software suitable for uncertain situations such as drilling. Given that Humans on the Moon or Mars are unlikely to be able to spend protracted EVA periods at a drill site, both human-tended and robotic access to planetary subsurfaces will require some degree of standalone, autonomous drilling capability. Human-robotic coordination will be important, either between a robotic drill and humans on Earth, or a human-tended drill and its visiting crew. The Mars Analog Rio Tinto Experiment (MARTE) is a current project that studies and simulates the remote science operations between an automated drill in Spain and a distant, distributed human science team. The Drilling Automation for Mars Exploration (DAME) project, by contrast: is developing and testing standalone automation at a lunar/martian impact crater analog site in Arctic Canada. The drill hardware in both projects is a hardened, evolved version of the Advanced Deep Drill (ADD) developed by Honeybee Robotics for the Mars Subsurface Program. The current ADD is capable of 20m, and the DAME project is developing diagnostic and executive software for hands-off surface operations of the evolved version of this drill. The current drill automation architecture being developed by NASA and tested in 2004-06 at analog sites in the Arctic and Spain will add downhole diagnosis of different strata, bit wear detection, and dynamic replanning capabilities when unexpected failures or drilling conditions are discovered in conjunction with simulated mission operations and remote science planning. The most important determinant of future 1unar and martian drilling automation and staffing requirements will be the actual performance of automated prototype drilling hardware systems in field trials in simulated mission operations. It is difficult to accurately predict the level of automation and human interaction that will be needed for a lunar-deployed drill without first having extensive experience with the robotic control of prototype drill systems under realistic analog field conditions. Drill-specific failure modes and software design flaws will become most apparent at this stage. DAME will develop and test drill automation software and hardware under stressful operating conditions during several planned field campaigns. Initial results from summer 2004 tests show seven identifi distinct failure modes of the drill: cuttings-removal issues with low-power drilling into permafrost, and successful steps at executive control and initial automation.
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
56th IAC/IAF, AIAA Meeting; 17-21, 2005; Fukuoka; Japan