Know How to Manage Power on the Moon? NASA Might Have $5M for You

A waxing gibbous moon above the Earth’s horizon from the ISS, August 2020 (Image: NASA)
Long lunar nights—up to 350 hours—pose an energy challenge for spacefarers, as humans can’t use solar energy to power activities during that time. This makes it difficult to have a sustained presence on the moon, unless we find an energy solution.

NASA is turning to the public for answers. It partnered with HeroX to create Watts on the Moon, a crowdsourcing challenge that asks people to submit ideas for power distribution, storage, and management on the moon.

There are two phases to the challenge, the first of which requires that participants address one or more of these three power-related activities:

  • Taking power from the plant to a mobility platform inside the crater. 
  • Taking power from the plant to a water processing plant inside the crater.
  • Taking power from the plant to an oxygen production plant inside the crater. 

Participants don’t have to actually generate power at this phase, but there is still up to $500,000 in prize money up for grabs: up to three $100,000 1st Place prizes, plus the option of four additional $50,000 prizes to the next highest scoring teams in one or more mission activities.

Phase two has higher stakes. Participants will have to build working prototypes that bring their solutions to life. The prize money will also be higher, at around $4.5 million after simulated testing at a NASA or third-party location.

After phase two, one or more teams could be invited to work with NASA to build flight-rated hardware for a demo on the moon. Sign up to participate via Phase one registration closes on March 25, 2021 at 2 p.m. PDT and winners will be announced on May 20. If NASA gets enough good ideas, phase two registration will open on June 1, but winners won’t be announced until Sept. 1, 2023.

You have to be a US citizen or permanent resident and 18 years or older to participate. 

This isn’t NASA’s first crowdsourcing challenge: Earlier this year, Lunar Loo called for ideas for a space toilet. Submissions for that closed in August.

These challenges come as NASA is planning a return to the moon via the Artemis missions. The first unmanned mission, Artemis I, is scheduled for 2021. Artemis II will fly with crew in 2023, but humans won’t land on the moon until Artemis III in 2024.

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I'm Malkit singh rataul.

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