NASA recently awarded $500,000 to 13 teams for their moon mining development technology. (Image Credit: NASA)
Quick question, what is the mass of the mined material brought to Earth that would change the rotational speed of the planet?
NASA granted $500,000 to 13 teams through its Break the Ice Lunar Challenge, a competition designed to promote and kick-start moon mining development technology. Extracting water, ice, and other lunar resources is vital to the agency. NASA is also working to create a permanent human presence on and around the moon through its Artemis program.
“Expanding the pool of ideas for excavating lunar resources safely and responsibly requires new technology development,” said Monsi Roman, Centennial Challenges program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “The system concepts developed as part of this challenge will enable sustainable lunar surface operations, paving the way for us to convert lunar ice to vital resources and decreasing our supply needs from Earth.”
RedWire Space, the Florida-based company, won first place and received $125,000 for its concept two-rover system. Its Lunar Regolith Excavator (L-Rex) is designed to dig up icy regolith. Meanwhile, the all-around and lightweight Lunar Transporter (L-Tran) deploys the excavator and delivers regolith and ice.
The second-place prize went to Colorado School of Mines in Golden, netting $75,000 for its Lunar Ice Digging System (LIDS). Its concept involves utilizing a three-rover system, which includes an excavator, regolith hauler, and robotic arms that perform assembly, maintenance, and repairs.
Third place went to Austere Engineering of Littleton, Colorado, which won $50,000 for its Grading and Rotating for Water Located in Excavated Regolith (GROWLER) system. Overall, the system weighs around 12 metric tons, a bit heavier than a school bus. First, the rover maps the surface and underground rocks getting in the way of the excavation site. Afterward, the rover uses a rotary tiller to remove icy regolith before extracting and delivering water.
NASA also awarded $25,000 each to ten teams listed below:
- AggISRU from Texas A&M University in College Station;
- Aurora Robotics from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks;
- Lunar Lions from the Columbia University Robotics Club in New York;
- OffWorld Robotics in Pasadena, California;
- Oshkosh Corp. in Oshkosh, Wisconsin;
- Rocket M in Mojave, California;
- Space Trajectory from South Dakota State University in Brookings;
- Team AA-Star in Redmond, Washington;
- Team LIQUID from Altadena, California;
- Terra Engineering in Gardena, California.
In total, 31 other teams from 17 U.S. states, Canada, Australia, and Sri Lanka submitted proposals for this challenge, which began in November 2020. Those teams created an ice excavation plan, a system architecture, and an animation of their system showing its capabilities. NASA also said a future phase of the competition “may focus on hardware development and demonstration.”
Have a story tip? Message me at: http://twitter.com/Cabe_Atwell