The one that I found is from May 5,1988

by Professor Stan Lowy Department of Aerospace Engineering Texas A M University



19 July 2021

Due to link rot, the link to the NASA web page has become defunct.

Proposal for a lunar tunnel-boring machine

Proposal for a lunar tunnel-boring machine

Allen, Christopher S. ; Cooper, David W. ; Davila, David, Jr. ; Mahendra, Christopher S. ; Tagaras, Michael A.

A need exists for obtaining a safe and habitable lunar base that is free from the hazards of radiation, temperature gradient, and micrometeorites. A device for excavating lunar material and simultaneously generating living space in the subselenian environment was studied at the conceptual level. Preliminary examinations indicate that a device using a mechanical head to shear its way through the lunar material while creating a rigid ceramic-like lining meets design constraints using existing technology. The Lunar Tunneler is totally automated and guided by a laser communication system. There exists the potential for the excavated lunar material to be used in conjunction with a surface mining process for the purpose of the extraction of oxygen and other elements. Experiments into lunar material excavation and further research into the concept of a mechanical Lunar Tunneler are suggested.

Publication: Final Report Texas A&M Univ., College Station. Dept. of Aerospace Engineering. Pub Date: May 1988

Keywords: Laser Applications; Lunar Bases; Tunneling (Excavation); Underground Structures; Ceramics; Linings; Lunar Logistics; Optical Communication; Oxygen Production; Engineering (General)


SUBSELENE: a nuclear powered melt tunneling concept for high-speed lunar subsurface transportation tunnels


High-speed lunar surface transportation between manned scientific, commercial, or logistical facilities will require subsurface tunnels because humans must be shielded from Galactic Cosmic Ray and Solar Proton Event irradiations. We present a concept called SUBSELENE in which heat from a nuclear reactor is used to melt rock and form a self-supporting, glass-lined tunnel suitable for Maglev or other high-speed transport modes. We argue that SUBSELENE is an optimal approach to forming transportation tunnels on the Moon because: (1) it uses a high-energy-density, high-efficiency, nuclear power supply; (2) it does not require water or other rare volatiles for upon system muck handling or cooling; (3) it can penetrate through a mechanically varied sequence of rock types without complicated configurational changes; (4) it forms its own support structure as it goes; and (5) it is highly amenable to unmanned, automated operation. We outline the R and D needed to develop a SUBSELENE device and give a cost estimate based on experience with small-scale, field-tested, rock-melting penetrators.

Authors: Neudecker, Jr, J W; Blacic, J D; Rowley, J C

Publication Date: 1986-01-01

Research Org.: Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)

OSTI Identifier: 5262838

Report Number(s): LA-UR-86-2897; CONF-8609141-1 ON: DE86015305

DOE Contract Number: W-7405-ENG-36

Resource Relation: Conference: Engineers Club of Philadelphia symposium, Atlantic City, NJ, USA, 22 Sep 1986; Other Information: Portions of this document are illegible in microfiche products

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What makes you think there is one? $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Mar 8 '19 at 10:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Wouldnt using existing lava tubules be a more promising way for an underground lunar base to be made? $\endgroup$ Mar 10 '19 at 3:13
  • $\begingroup$ Checked on 19 July 2021, the link to the NASA web page has become defunct. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Jul 19 at 5:45

I found something more recent.


  • 3
    $\begingroup$ It'd be great if you could expand this into a proper answer by at least citing the important bits and summarizing the rest. Link-only answers are frowned upon on SE in general. $\endgroup$
    – TooTea
    Oct 27 '19 at 22:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Weight is an issue. It's pretty expensive to take a kilogramme of material from the earth to the moon. Our machines are hundreds of tonnes of mass, so it's not feasible to take the machines as they are," he said. Is still the basic summary of the article, not much has changed. $\endgroup$ Oct 28 '19 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ Here's the actual paper: ascelibrary.org/doi/10.1061/9780784481899.024 The paper is paywalled, but the abstract is viewable for free. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Feb 24 '20 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ @DuaneLawrence does secret clearance allow you to access paywalled papers? (humor) If you can add a few lines from the Phys.org article and cite the paper that would improve your answer. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Feb 24 '20 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ In Duane’s defense, he answered the question exactly. He even went further by including the more recent paper. The question should perhaps be improved as well, but it is currently answered. $\endgroup$
    – Eric G
    Mar 23 at 3:13

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