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In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU)

CENSSS will develop the next generation planetary water mapping instrument.

Aims and Goals

NASA and ESA have started to plan the next step in space exploration to bring humans back to the Moon and later to the planet Mars. Astronauts on the International Space Station receive today regular supplies from Earth with food, air, water, rocket fuel and spare parts. This constant resupply is driving the costs and the sustainability for humans to live in space or in the future on extraterrestrial bodies. To overcome this shortage, there is a drive to develop technologies to identify and harvest local resources and generate products with available local materials. This is called in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). Some of the most promising commodities to exploit locally are oxygen, water, and methane.


CENSSS will develop the next generation planetary water mapping instrument. The instrument will be a combination of some or all of the following techniques: Neutron and gamma-ray spectrometer (GRNS), electromagnetic induction spectrometer (MIS), ground penetrating radar (GPR), and an optical spectrometer.


Combining a neutron detector, GPR and a MIS will give both the amount of water, composition, and the stratigraphy of the shallow subsurface. The gamma-ray and optical spectrometer enable further analysis of (sub-) surface regolith compositions.

The outcome of this work package is a next generation planetary water-mapping instrument that will be demonstrated under relevant environments and is ready to be taken into space and flown on a rover mission to the Moon or Mars.


For that, expected environment at target areas will be analyzed and a suitable design for the detector unit will be chosen and simulated. The instrument is based on existing technology, such as gamma-ray spectrometers and neutron detectors, that were developed by IDEAS for science projects on Earth. IDEAS readout system shall be evaluated and adapted to environmental constrains. The integrated instrument will be characterized and tested in lab and field conditions and later adapted according to the expected environments on space rover missions. Deployment of the neutron and gamma spectrometer in a balloon mission or on a satellite could be further options to increase space heritage of this technology. 


An electromagnetic induction instrument shall be developed and tested and later combined with the neutron detector and the RIMFAX instrument, a GPR developed by FFI, see WP4.


A combination of sensors to identify and characterize subsurface water shall be integrated into an instrument package that allow for rover integration. The rover with instrument will be field tested in relevant terrain.


Involved partners in WP5 are

  • IDEAS: competency in radiation and optical instrument development, readout system for Neutron and gamma spectrometers

  • UiO: providing RIMFAX and MIS

  • ispace: being experts on lunar rovers,

  • UCLA: scientific support in the field of ISRU.


Anja Kohfeldt (Work Package Leader)

Deniz Ölcek (PhD Candidate)

Erlend Finden  (PhD Candidate)

Ramsey Al Jebali (GRBS, PostDoc)

TBA (PostDoc)

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