NASA challenges public to devise novel ways to unload lunar supplies
Having conquered space toilets, NASA, with crowd-sourcer HeroX, have announced a new challenge that invites the public to submit novel ways to unload lunar payloads. NASA’s Lunar Delivery Challenge is offering US$25,000 in prizes for the best ideas for removing cargo from the lunar landers being built for the space agency's Artemis program.
A frustrating truism is that the most advanced, ambitious endeavors will often find that the worst bottleneck is seemingly the most trivial – how to get the stuff out of the vehicle when you get to your destination, for example. Anyone who has had to unload an aircraft, yacht, car, or van can appreciate that it can be much more arduous than traveling from Point A to Point B. Even for the historic Apollo lunar landings of half a century ago, NASA at one time expected the astronauts to descend to the Moon's surface hand over hand on a rope – and on the day still had them hauling equipment manually down a rickety ladder.
With the Artemis program committed to landing the first woman and the next man on the surface of the Moon in 2024 as the first step in establishing a permanent American human presence there, the problem of routinely unloading payloads from landers and other spacecraft in a vacuum under one-sixth Earth gravity is unlikely to make do with a clothesline and a couple of pulleys.
The Lunar Delivery Challenge is being promoted on behalf of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) and NASA’s Langley Research Center and wants participants to look at new ways to unload a wide variety of cargoes, ranging from small instruments to habitat modules and rovers, from a variety of landers and other craft.
According to the organizers, the competition isn't deeply technical and is open to anyone 18 or older from any country not subject to US federal sanctions. Entries may be as individuals or as a team and up to six participants will share a total prize of US$25,000 for the best idea.
"We are looking for broad concepts from the public, so this is not an engineer-specific challenge. We want to hear from everyone," says Paul Kessler, Aerospace Vehicle Design and Mission Analyst, NASA. "We are interested in concepts that range from simple to complex. We don't yet know what will work best, and that's why we're interested in every proposal. We are excited to see what people have to offer and to have them contribute to NASA's ambitious mission. This is the stuff that makes history."
For more information and to enter the contest, visit HeroX.