NASA has granted nearly $1 million to student teams looking to set up robots, towers and other technologies together with moon-roaming astronauts.
The agency’s Artemis program intends to return humans to the lunar surface in 2024 supported by a suite of robotic assistants, many of which will be transported through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, which involves several commercial companies.
The students now getting Artemis funding, however, are concentrating on a narrow challenge: creating tools that will perform in permanently shadowed craters on the moon. Such craters are beneficial areas for human exploration because their shadows can hold water ice, which could be used to back missions by providing rocket fuel or drinking water.
But these regions are also extremely hostile. The equipment will need to survive the cold and be powered in some way that lets rovers and other machines moving in permanent darkness.
NASA chose eight teams to receive between $80,000 and $165,000 individually to continue developing their projects. In an earlier statement, NASA said that when conceptual testing is complete, it may give students an opportunity to launch their payloads to the moon if the student ideas are considered viable. Apparently, this would also depend on mission necessities, which severely limit instruments, based on the aims of a particular flight.
The projects comprise of an Arizona State University proposal to launch spherical sensor-laden probes from a catapult connected to a lunar lander, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology bid to develop a lightweight tower that can work as a communications relay and instrument platform, numerous rover concepts, and a few proposals for using lasers to power other equipment.
“I look onward to seeing the inventive designs come to life, and also how they can increase our exploration abilities in permanently shadowed craters on the moon,” said Drew Hope, game-changing development program manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center.