NASA has named the 15 teams that will compete in the semi-final of its Break the Ice Lunar Challenge. The US$3.5million multi-phase challenge invites problem-solvers from business, academia, maker communities,and more to play a role in building a lasting human presence and vibrant economy on the Moon by tapping into resources that are already there.
‘We’re putting humanity back on the Moon with the Artemis missions and this is a team effort on a global scale,’ said Amy Kaminski, program executive for prizes, challenges, and crowdsourcing in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. ‘Challenges such as Break the Ice are one more way for creative thinkers around the world to participate, by helping us learn to “live off the land” and turn local resources into useful products such as water, building materials and even rocket fuel.’
Phase One of the challenge, which launched in 2020, sought new ideas and approaches for a system architecture capable of excavating and moving icy regolith and water on the lunar surface. Participants were asked to submit a system architecture report, excavation plan and mission animation that addressed various operations and environmental conditions of a hypothetical excavation mission on the lunar surface.
Phase two, which kicked off in June 2022, contains three levels. The first level involved the submission of detailed technical reports, engineering designs and test plans for excavating and delivering icy lunar regolith. Twenty-five teams from around the world submitted entries. A panel of government, industry and academic experts in ‘in-situ resource utilisation’ – the technical term for using local resources – evaluated the entries. The 15 winning teams – 13 from the USA, one from India and one from the Netherlands – will now move on to build and test full-size prototypes of their designs.
In Level Three, the qualifying teams will put their protypes to the test in a head-to-head onsite competition.
‘As we work towards a sustained human presence on the Moon, we are committed to enabling the development and demonstration of new technologies to support the infrastructure needed for long-term human presence,’ said Denise Morris, acting Centennial Challenges programme manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. ‘Technologies and hardware from the Break the Ice Lunar Challenge will get us one step closer to excavating icy regolith on the lunar surface, providing critical water resources and excavation activities needed to build the infrastructure on the Moon.’