Sunday, February 25

NASA Names 6 Finalists In $3.5 Billion Break The Ice Challenge

Starting in 2020, NASA’s Break The Ice challenged innovators with creating robotic systems that can traverse the volatile terrain of the Lunar South Pole. The robots must dig into the Moon’s regolith, which is the busty “dirt” that makes up the moon’s surface.

The Break the Ice challenge is difficult. These robots will have to operate in the shadowed regions of the moon, with cold conditions and no solar power.

“Our goal is to provide solutions to make living on the Moon a reality, and Break the Ice directly contributes to that mission,” said Denise Morris, program manager for NASA’s Centennial Challenges. “Excavating lunar regolith before humans arrive on the Moon will allow us to find uses for that material before they get there – if we could build a lunar habitat out of the regolith or extract the water for our astronauts to drink, that means less mass on our vehicles and less work for our crews.”

Phase 2 of this project finished, where 25 teams developed their initial designs into prototypes with technical reports, engineering designs, and test plans. The finalists included a list of garage inventors, academics, industry professionals, and hobbyists.

Nine of these teams attempted a 15-day demonstration trial at testing sites to prove the capabilities of their prototypes. Eventually, NASA named the winning teams:

  • 1st Place ($300,000): Starpath Robotics (San Francisco, CA)
  • 2nd Place ($200,000): Terra Engineering (Gardena, CA)
  • 3rd Place ($125,000): The Ice Diggers (Golden, CO)

NASA Also gave $75,000 to three runner ups:

  • Cislune Excacators (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Space Trajectory (Brookings, SD)
  • MTU Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab (Houghton, MI)

Image Source: NASA/Johnathan Deal