From: California Space Authority
Posted: Monday, October 12, 2009
A record number of entrants have signed up to compete in the 2009 Regolith Excavation Challenge and its whopping $750,000 prize money. Twenty-three teams have fulfilled the application requirements to compete in the October 17 and 18 event at the NASA Ames Research Park at Moffett Field in Mountain View.
The competition requires teams to build a roving lunar excavator that can "navigate, excavate, and transfer 150 kg of simulated lunar regolith (moon dirt)" into a collector bin within 30 minutes. As part of NASA's Centennial Challenges designed to incubate cutting-edge aerospace technology through non-traditional incentives and public competition, the competing excavators must carry their own power source and are required to be controlled remotely in a way that mimics the logistics of lunar surface communications. Each team has just one chance at the prize. Thirteen of the teams are returning to compete after having attempted in prior years.
Regolith excavation is a necessary first step towards lunar resource utilization, and the unique physical properties of lunar regolith make excavation a difficult technical challenge. Advances in lunar regolith excavation have the potential to contribute significantly to the nation's space exploration operations, as well as foster advancements in technology for use on Earth.
"An important aspect of this competition is to challenge the teams to push the limits of convention. Our great hope is that through their excavator designs, one or more of them will strike on an innovation that revolutionizes the power and energy requirements for excavation systems of all kinds," stated Lynn Baroff, Executive Director of the California Space Education and Workforce Institute (CSEWI), co-host of the event with its sister organization, the California Space Authority (CSA). "Consider the impact on our daily lives if, through this seemingly fun-filled exercise, a terrific development in energy efficient excavation systems could be demonstrated."
"The enthusiasm we see from the teams signing up this year gives us all cause to expect that one of them will actually walk away with the top prize. It is encouraging to see so many people making the leap to take space exploration into their own hands," stated Andrea Seastrand, Executive Director of CSA. "We are expecting to see some truly out-of-the box designs and are anxious to see how they will perform."
The majority of the teams represent the private sector, while it is estimated that 11of them are affiliated with universities or have a majority of student team members. Several of the teams have backgrounds that are not traditionally associated with the aerospace industry, such as information technology and the energy. Yet others are made up of representatives with traditional backgrounds in space enterprise and at least two of the teams have won prizes in other competitions. Teams registered this year are the following:
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