Caterpillar (the Construction Company) Sets Sights on Moon Mining

The equipment manufacturer is developing autonomous machinery that they hope will one day make it to the surface of the moon.

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Shoot for the Stars, Land on the Moon

One of the advantages of autonomous equipment is that it can be used to perform tasks in remote locations where there is a shortage of laborers or maybe even no laborers at all. Caterpillar is currently developing their own line of self-driving equipment, and their hope is that it will one day be used in perhaps the most remote location currently accessible to mankind: the moon.

NASA is scheduled to return to the surface of the moon in 2024. The plan to return to the moon has been dubbed “the Artemis program” and includes mining operations and the construction of a permanent base near the lunar south pole. According to the Artemis Program’s website,  NASA is planning on collaborating with “commercial and international partners” in their efforts, and Caterpillar is hoping to be one of those partners.

“We’ve had a longstanding relationship with NASA,” Denise Johnson, group president of Caterpillar’s resource industries unit, said to CNBC.

Caterpillar and NASA collaborated from 2004 to 2013, working together to pair construction and robotics.

“The partnership focused on two technology areas: construction and robotic operations,” NASA spokesperson Clare Skelly said to CNBC. “There are many synergies between what NASA needs to meet exploration goals and Caterpillar technologies used every day on Earth.”

Since that collaboration, Caterpillar has continued to develop their autonomous equipment as part of the company’s long-term vision. While there are no concrete plans yet for Caterpillar to provide lunar equipment to NASA for the Artemis program, the idea is that the company’s autonomous equipment could perform tasks that would be dangerous for astronauts. According to CNBC, Caterpillar’s fully and semi-autonomous bulldozers and dump trucks could be instrumental in creating the roads and housing that a lunar base would require, and autonomous mining machines could be used to mine materials from the surface of the moon.

“We always want to challenge ourselves to think outside the box,” Johnson told CNBC.

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