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With the launch of lunar orbital stations and the first Moon landing in years expected to take place this decade, scientists are increasingly setting their sights on technology that would allow future missions to mine the Moon for resources. 

A team of researchers from the University of Arizona recently received a $500,000 grant from NASA to develop space-mining methods. The result is the development of a swarm of autonomous robots that could search and mine for rare earth metals on the Moon, a press release explains.

The team behind the robots developed an electrochemical process that drills through rock five times faster than any other method. This is combined with a neuromorphic learning architecture technique called the Human and Explainable Autonomous Robotic System (HEART) that trains robots to work together and improve their collaboration skills over time via machine learning. The team will build and train the robots on Earth so they can hone their teamwork skills in a safer environment before going to space. Ultimately, the team aims to deploy the swarm of robots on the Moon, where they will be able to build basic structures and mine for resources without instruction from Earth.

 

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