The Jeuns

Teams are challenged to build robots capable of harvesting water on the moon

June 13, 2024 | by The Jeuns

A prestigious contest managed by Marshall’s Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama is driving innovation in technology that could eventually sustain human life on the moon. Teams from various parts of the United States gathered at Alabama A&M’s Agribition Center to tackle challenges crucial to the future of space exploration.

The six competing teams have achieved a significant milestone by excavating and collecting imitation regolith, the material that blankets the lunar surface. NASA’s In-Situ Resource Utilization System Capability Lead, Gerald Sanders, expressed the importance of mining water on the moon. Water could serve multiple purposes such as supporting life support systems, radiation shielding, and producing propellants.

The robots developed by the teams are specifically geared towards extracting frozen water on the moon and navigating across its rugged terrain. Sanders highlighted the difficulty of mining water as it is typically found in ice mixed with regolith, making it as tough as concrete.

Alistair Garnett from Lunar Outpost, a collaboration between students from the Colorado School of Mines and the private company, explained their robot’s design process. Their team, one of the finalists competing for a million-dollar prize, has equipped their robot with a scoop, actuators, a jackhammer controlled by mission control, and an Xbox controller for driving.

NASA views competitions like these as opportunities to explore diverse approaches before finalizing equipment designs. The winning team will receive a million-dollar prize, while the runner-up will be awarded 0,000.

The top-performing teams in excavating imitation moon regolith will have the chance to test their robots inside Marshall Space Flight Center’s V-20 Vacuum Chamber, simulating the lunar conditions these machines would encounter. This competition not only aims to advance technology for future space missions but also inspires the next generation of NASA equipment.

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