Vestal Lunar LEO & Lunar Tourism Concept

We need your insights, ideas (including non-technical ones) and comments to make the this lunar tourist concept as good as possible.

This challenge is closed


This challenge is closed




Problem Statement

Humanity has entered the era of true space tourism. Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic offer sub-orbital adventures, the Russians offer film crew trips to the Space Station and SpaceX offers 3 day trips in LEO (Low Earth Orbit). This highly reusable Vestal Lunar concept takes this one step further and imagines what a system that could support lunar tourism might be like. This concept first assumes that SpaceX's HLS Starship proposal to NASA functions well and meets requirements. This concept next assumes that the fictional Vestal Lunar Corp can purchase an HLS Starship system and modify it for direct LEO to Lunar Surface and back to LEO operations. To accomplish this the bottom 30 m of HLS Starship (the main fuel tanks and engines) needs the ability to separate and later re-dock to the Lunar Lander in lunar orbit (making it an Orbital Transfer Vehicle). This allows the lander to have total dry mass of 50 tonnes and carry up to 10 tonnes of crew and cargo to the moon surface. After a 10 day stay the lander leaves the moon, reconnects with the OTV, then all returns to LEO.  The crew return to the Earth surface. The system is refueled, restocked over a month.  A new crew arrives and the adventure is repeated (perhaps to a different Lunar landing location).



Current Solutions

The SpaceX HLS Starship proposal to answer NASA's Artemis Human Landing System (HLS) is assumed to work well. This may be first exercised in the 2024-2026 timeframe. But, given the very high expense and very limited trip rate of Artemis due to use of SLS/Orion to move crew from Earth to lunar orbit and back, our fictional Vestal Lunar Corporation seeks an architecture that reused HLS Starship technology with a direct from LEO (Low Earth Orbit) to lunar surface and back to LEO solution. This concept leverages the maximum number of currently proven or soon to be proven components and services. First, tourists will travel from Earth to LEO (and back) with the proven Crew Dragon/Falcon 9 service that recently serviced the recent Inspiration 4 LEO tourism mission. Next, the concept will use as much of the HLS Starship solution as possible including SpaceX's Vacuum Raptor Engines. Otherwise, the concept will use other commercial NASA technologies as applicable.



Pain Point

A reference solution is provided that needs review, additional detailing and new ideas. More specifically:

1) Assuming 4 people minimum and 8 maximum, what features, structures, equipment, supplies and technology should be included in the 10 tonne mass allotment within the main pressure vessel that is the crew cabin of the Lunar Lander. As this is a tourist operation some mass for fun features and equipment is expected! But also consider safety options like how to deal with a rare but dangerous solar storm. 

2) What should be the crew mix?  2 experienced Vestal Lunar staff are assumed, with 2-5 tourists on a mission.

3) The concept has two cargo pods (4 tonne each) that can carry 2 tonne each of mission specific surface equipment such as rovers. What might be good uses for these 4 tonnes? 

4) What kind of surface activities would be good for a 10 day sunlit stay?

5) Where might the tourists land?

6) To keep prices down (maybe $100M per person per trip), how else can we make money with the concept, such as renting the lander out as a hotel in LEO?



This is an informal competition that invite you to submit short reviews, comments, ideas, refinements or just about anything that our fictional Vestal Lunar Corporation (VLC) might use to refine and improve the solution.  This includes any technical "show stoppers" that could prevent this concept from working.


You must factor in information provided in the VLS_OVERVIEW_V1.0 PDF (26 slides) that is found in the resources tab for this challenge.  Conformance to this information will factor into scoring of submissions.  If possible, please reference the page/slide number when making specific comments or adding ideas.  Please also consider more technical items in VLS_TECHINFO_V1.0 also in the resources tab.


If your idea involves timing, costing or potential SpaceX business issues, please assume for the sake of analysis:


  • SpaceX HLS Starship concept works well, including LEO refueling and orbital fuel storage by 2026
  • The Vestal Lunar system would be built by 2028 and operate by 2030
  • SpaceX would sell an HLS Starship to VLC for $1B that VLC could modify as it wanted
  • The cost to VLC to build, tests and certify the lander for tourist operations is $2B
  • SpaceX will launch the Vestal Lunar System (VLS) to LEO for $100M
  • SpaceX can launch 100+ tonne of fuel to LEO for $20M a trip = $240M for 1200 tonnes of fuel + 8 tonne cargo
  • SpaceX can launch a crew of 4-7 to LEO on Crew Dragon to LEO for $100M


This challenge will award up to $300 to up to 3 teams, as follows:

  • Up to $150 for one first place winner
  • Up to $100 for one second place winner
  • Up to $50 for one third place winner



Judging will be based on a 100 total possible points:


  • Conformance to Vestal Lunar Concept V1.0 PDF (and other provided information) = up to 40 points
    • Since there are a lot of moving parts in this concept, please take a good look at the Vestal Lunar Concept V1.0 PDF provided, and then reference given page/slide numbers that you are commenting on or adding ideas to.
  • Impact of submission on the Vestal Lunar concept =  up to 40 points
    • Impact such as analysis that shows a flaw in the concept, or a way to modify the concept to improve it.  This could be better safety, lower cost, new or better capabilities ...
  • Creativity of submission =  up to 10 points
    • How novel is idea?  Did this add something to the Vestal Lunar concept that is unexpected and valuable?
  • Quality of submission =  up to 5 points
  • Results of public voting =  up to 5 points


Participation Eligibility:

The challenge is open to all adult individuals and private teams. Submissions must be made in English. All challenge-related communication will be in English. Individual competitors and teams may originate from any country, as long as United States federal sanctions do not prohibit participation (see:

No specific qualifications or expertise in the field of engineering, farming or chicken keeping is required. Prize organizers encourage outside individuals and non-expert teams to compete and propose new solutions. 

To be eligible to compete, you must comply with all the terms of the challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.

Registration and Submissions:

Submissions must be made online (only), via upload to the website, on or before the posted contest deadline. No late submissions will be accepted.

This challenge allows multiple submissions per individual/team. Should you have multiple entries to submit to this challenge, they will be considered separately. Whether or not multiple entries from the same individual or team may be chosen for a prize is up to the discretion of the Challenge Sponsor. You are not required to submit multiple entries, if that option is available.

Intellectual Property Rights:

All Intellectual property rights, if any, in the idea, concept, or activities demonstrated by the Submission will remain with the Innovator.

Selection of Winners:

Based on the winning criteria, prizes will be awarded per the Judging Criteria section above. In the case of but a tie, the winner(s) will be selected based on the highest votes from the Judges.

In the case of no winner, Sponsor reserves the right to withhold the Prize amount. In place of the original prize amount, Sponsor must issue a Consolation Prize to the team or individual closest to the winning solution in the amount of at least 15% of the total original prize purse.

Awarding of the Prize:

The Individual Submitter or Team Captain is automatically designated as the Recipient of the prize monies. The Individual’s or Captain’s name must also match the Authorized Person on the receiving Bank Account. No changes are permitted to the prize Recipient after the Submission Deadline date. If you wish to change who would receive the prize monies, those changes must be completed prior to the Submission Deadline. View our Knowledge Base article here for how to change Team Captains.

Judging Panel:

The determination of the winners will be made by the sponsor, WidgetBlender LLC. 


Additional Information

  • By participating in the challenge, each competitor agrees to adhere to the HeroX Intellectual Integrity Policy and promises to submit only their original idea. Any indication of "copying" amongst competitors is grounds for disqualification.
  • All applications will go through a process of due diligence; any application found to be misrepresentative, plagiarized, or sharing an idea that is not their own will be automatically disqualified.
  • All ineligible applicants will be automatically removed from the competition with no recourse or reimbursement.
  • No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win the competition.
  • Void wherever restricted or prohibited by law.

Challenge Updates

NOW FIXED: You can vote for your favorite entries

Jan. 18, 2022, 5:33 a.m. PST by WidgetBlender

The folks at HeroX fixed the voting functionality.

The Vestal Lunar submission deadline has passed, so now you can vote for your favorite entries

Jan. 17, 2022, 7:05 a.m. PST by WidgetBlender

Submission deadline has passed, but you can vote for your favorite entries.  These will factor into the award decisions.




Also, a reminder that Vestal Lunar will continue after this HeroX contest at


Expect a lot of news and new content following:


  1. Lunar tech, discoveries, challenges
  2. The new space race between China and NASA to establish a lunar base
  3. Orbital space tourism (LEO, Lunar and beyond?)

1 week left to submit your idea for the Vestal Lunar Challenge

Jan. 7, 2022, 1:19 p.m. PST by WidgetBlender

There is only 1 week until your submission deadline for the Vestal Lunar challenge! 


Also, at the Vestal Lunar Reddit there are a number of new topics in case you need a idea to push off of.


Thanks for your participation!

Two Week Warning for Vestal Lunar Submission Deadline

Dec. 30, 2021, 8:36 a.m. PST by WidgetBlender

Some potentially helpful posts at the Vestal Lunar subReddit

Dec. 12, 2021, 6:40 a.m. PST by WidgetBlender

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