The Jacobs Space Exploration Group hosts an annual Space Technology Challenge to solicit space technology ideas from the public. Individuals and teams compete by submitting their innovations for evaluation in a two-stage competition. The annual event kicks off each year with the competition details being released in the spring and submissions being accepted in the fall. Winners are announced in November.
On November 18, Jacobs Space Exploration Group (JSEG) awarded three cash prizes for its Lunar Life 2022 Space Technology Challenge. The three winning entries were chosen after seven entries advanced to a final round consisting of video call presentations.
The Lunar Life challenge acknowledged that it will be hard living on the Moon. It can be extremely cold, dusty, and dark. There is nothing there to eat or drink. There is not even air to breathe. However, the Moon contains resources that we can use. Leveraging technology will enable us to combine lunar resources with our own to sustain a human presence on the Moon.
To compete in this challenge, innovators submitted ideas to help assist NASA with sustaining a human presence on the Moon by helping to overcome the challenges posed by such a difficult environment, including lunar dust, extreme temperatures, lunar resource mining, resource reusability, energy harvesting and management, surface transportation, in-space manufacturing, communications, etc. The challenge was hosted on HeroX, an online platform for crowdsourcing ideas. The Lunar Life site is at HeroX.com/LunarLife.
The first place $5,000 prize went to Shawn Kozak for his entry, “Triangular Sandbag for Lunar Dwellings”. This idea consists of Triangular sandbags filled with lunar regolith (lunar dust and small loose rock) that could be used as a fast-building option. His aim was to help provide a solution that would help to “live off the land” on the Moon.
While describing his concept, Shawn stated that “you’re carrying maybe one percent of the final weight of your structure up to the Moon, and the other 99% of the mass of the final build you’re getting off the surface, right there.“ The sandbag design is a triangular structure with a pouch on the outside where regolith can be inserted. A simple, lightweight bag stiffener mechanism would snap together during assembly and then get placed on the back side of the sandbag. These structural components could then be attached to each other in various configurations to build structures such as a dome. Shawn, also an artist, used his prior experience in movie visual effects to develop various custom computer generated graphics to illustrate his concept.
Second place ($3,000) was awarded to Craig Payne (Payne Aviation LLC) for the entry “A Lunar Drone Tool for Scientific Exploration”. Craig’s design consists of cold nitrogen gas powered engines “to power systems on a rocket drone for exploration and scientific Lunar survey”.
The “Spaceflight Compatible Research Station (SCoReS)” entry submitted by a Columbia University team of four led by Matthew Werneken captured third place ($2,000). The team describes their research glovebox as “a novel collapsible biochemical research station for spaceflight environments designed for intuitive experimentation.”
The challenge was managed by the JSEG Chief Engineering Department (CED) and falls under the Technology Innovation and Process Improvement (TIPI) portion of the ESSCA contract.
The Space Tech Challenge has been held annually for the last four years. The winner of the first challenge, issued in 2018, was a student led team from The Georgia Institute of Technology. The project work is continuing and JSEG has remained involved with their efforts.
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