The moon has fascinated people from time immemorial. We have all spent nights staring up at the starry sky, looking at the moon in wonder. For most of us, travel to the moon is out of reach. But now, you have the opportunity to send your tech to the moon!
NASA’s new lunar exploration program is the Artemis Program. As human space exploration evolves toward a permanent presence on the lunar surface, In situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) will become increasingly important. Resupply missions are very expensive. We need to develop practical and affordable ways to identify and use lunar resources, so that our astronaut crews can become more independent of Earth. Future astronauts have to be able to locate and collect lunar resources and then transform them into the essentials for life: breathable air, water for drinking and food production, building materials for shelter, rocket propellants, and more. Our mission capabilities will rapidly increase when useful products can be created from in-situ resources.
The ability to prospect, map, and characterize these in-situ resources not only increases NASA’s progress towards a sustained presence on the moon, but also could revolutionize mining, purification systems, the pharmaceutical industry, and other commercial industries - much as we realized enormous technological benefits and advances from the Apollo Program. NASA has issued this challenge to the global community to develop miniaturized payloads that can be sent to the moon in the next 1-4 years and bridge lunar strategic knowledge gaps.
Payloads that support prospecting for resources that help support a sustained human presence are highly desirable, in addition to payloads that enable lunar science, demonstrate new technologies and/or advance the use of resources found on the moon (in-situ resource utilization, ISRU).
Imagine a rover the size of your Roomba® crawling the moon’s surface. These small rovers developed by NASA and commercial partners provide greater mission flexibility and allow NASA to collect key information about the lunar surface. However, existing science payloads are too big, too heavy, and require too much power for these rovers and new, miniaturized payload designs are needed. Payloads need to be similar in size to a new bar of soap to fit cleanly inside the rover (maximum external dimensions: 100mm x 100mm x 50mm).
This ideation challenge will award $160,000 total in prizes across two categories. This ideation challenge is expected to be followed by new challenges to prototype, test, and deliver these miniaturized payloads. This larger effort will generate a maturation pipeline of next-generation instruments, sensors, and experiments that can be used for lunar exploration over the next few years.
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