Today, presenter Olivier Catani takes a look at Luxembourg's role in the space industry, specifically space mining. Not only is the country a frontrunner in terms of financing in this area, but a lot of inventions are being tested and operated right here.
RTL Today has teamed up with PISA, the Luxembourgish science magazine, to reproduce their original videos in English for our site. Presenter Olivier Catani this week aims to find the gold coins that were once found in these waters, and speaks to a miner that worked in the Dolomite mines for seven years.
This video is part of the PISA series for RTL Today. Watch all English videos on RTL Play, or discover the wide range of subjects previously covered in Luxembourgish here (there are 13 seasons, mind you! We'll try and catch up...). Our previous episodes covered the history of the tram, Luxembourg airport, explained how the coronavirus vaccine works, asked why traffic lights always seem to be red, investigated where our tap water comes from, looked at Luxembourg's railways since 1859 and took a dive into the Moselle Valley and its underground Dolomite mines.
Big industry in Luxembourg
Luxembourg may already be home to the global satellite operator SES Astra, but during the last few years, more and more space-related companies have settled in Luxembourg. One of them is ispace, and together with the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) they are working on an ambitious mission to the moon.
They are developing a rover, whose purpose it is to find precious materials on the surface of the moon, including water. But for now, it's not rolling around on the lunar surface, but at the company's headquarters in Hollerich. Here the rover is being taught how to create a map of the environment of the moon, how to avoid obstacles, and move autonomously.
Satellite images are not sufficiently detailed, so the rover will play a big role in mapping out the surface. As data sent from the earth to the moon takes too long to travel, the rover can make decisions itself. The rover was built in Japan, but is being tested in Luxembourg.
For the rover to establish what it finds on the moon it requires a little device, and that device is being created in Belval at LIST. An "atom weigher", so to speak, to measure the weight of atoms of materials and thereby identify what the rover has found.
But the device has to remain as small as possible to minimalise weight (which equals money in space business), and calculate the energy required, which is brought in via solar.
The basis of further missions into space
Imagine space mining could extract precious materials that can be used for fuel. The Moon could act as a fuel station for missions onwards to Mars.
So...how to land the rover on the moon? And how to separate good resources from bad ones? ispace is doing experiments and supporting missions by other businesses or universities, as well as offering its expertise and services. For example, a Japanese airline is interested in the landing technology.
Read (and listen) also: Lisa Burke interviews Olivier Catani