NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) has launched a competition aimed at developing miniature Moon scouts. Entries are due on June 1 and winning designs will be awarded a share of $160,000 in prizes.
The “Honey, I Shrunk the NASA Payload” competition was launched on April 9 and is open to teams or individuals from around the world, as long as United States federal sanctions do not prohibit participation. Participants are challenged to create miniaturized instruments that could help support a sustained human presence on the surface of the Moon.
“Smaller payloads are game-changing,” said Sabah Bux, a technologist at JPL. “They will allow us to develop technologies to do more prospecting and science on smaller, more mobile platforms.”
The competition calls for payload designs measuring no larger than 100 mm x 100 mm x 50 mm (3.9 in x 3.9 in x 1.9 in) and no heavier than 0.4 kgs (0.8 lbs). In addition to the size and weight parameters, NASA also supplied a list of specific “strategic knowledge gaps” designs should seek to fill.
The specific knowledge gaps outlined in the competition guidelines are split into two main categories: lunar resource potential and lunar environment. Under the lunar resource potential category, payloads could be designed to identify regolith or polar resources or to provide in situ resource utilization. Proposals fulfilling the lunar environment category could be designed to predict solar events or to mitigate radiation exposure.
Entries close on June 1 and can be submitted on herox.com/NASApayload.
NASA hopes that the “Honey, I Shrunk the NASA Payload” competition will generate a “maturation pipeline of next-generation instruments, sensors, technologies and experiments for near-term lunar exploration.”
Following the completion of the “ideation challenge”, NASA plans to launch new competitions to prototype, test and deliver the miniaturized payloads to the lunar surface.