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Lunar Wireless Sensor Network for In-Situ Resource Detection




MAS: Media Arts and Sciences

Faculty Supervisor:

Joe Paradiso

Faculty email:


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Fangzheng Liu: fzliu@mit.edu

Project Description

Technologies that can support long-term and wide-range missions in hard-to-reach areas on the lunar surface are critical for future lunar exploration. These missions are resource-intensive; water will prove to be a versatile resource in life support services for exploration crews as well as a potential fuel source for rockets or other spacecraft. Ferrying water from the Earth to lunar surface is a high-cost and high-risk activity. In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) would allow crews to take advantage of local resources, drastically reducing the cost and mass of payloads launched from Earth, making long-term lunar exploration possible. However, lunar water-ice deposits have not been adequately characterized, and accessibility to these regions remains unclear. Furthermore, water-ice deposits are often found in hard-to-reach areas such as permanently shadowed regions in craters, inaccessible to current spacecraft and planetary robots. More accurate information, such as the location of a water ‘reserve’, along with the physical knowledge of these areas is essential. We are leveraging our current work on a Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) to develop the LunarWSN, which could be used to detect and measure water ice content in lunar soil surface (depth of less than a few millimeters) and characterize the local environment. Our goal is to study the water ice content of the South Pole craters to create a 2D map of water ice reserves, while characterizing the local environment and geology to support development of hardware for future water extraction missions. The UROP will be responsible for reviewing different technologies (e.g., dielectric spectroscopy, Shortwave-IR) for detecting water ice content in lunar soil and investigating the feasibility of realizing the technology in miniature sensor nodes (5cm x 5cm x 5cm). The LunarWSN will be a extendable platform, so the UROP is encouraged to explore more possible missions that the sensor node can operate (e.g., seismic sensing, heat flow sensing, etc.). The UROP will also participate in the LunarWSN hardware/software development, but this is up to the UROP’s interest and time. We are seeking a UROP student who is interested in space exploration and has a strong background in math, physics/chemistry and electrical engineering. UROPs will also be able to join weekly discussions.


Autonomous and motivated students (seniors or experienced juniors) with a strong focus on math physics/chemistry and electrical engineering. Students from EECS/Physics/Aerospace are preferred, but this is not mandatory. Python/Matlab would be necessary for analysis. If you are interested in participating the hardware/software design, knowledge about electronics, Python GUI (PyQt), 3D modeling and 3D printing will be necessary.