National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has invited applications from university-level engineering students to participate in developing a method to harvest water on the Moon and Mars. Teams will be expected to submit their prototype or proposed concept design till November 24, 2020. Out of the designs received, NASA will pick up to 10 teams which will be selected in the next month to build and test their systems. All of them will receive 10,000 dollars development stipend.
Water is essential for long expeditions and astronauts also use it to try and grow plants and make rocket propellant with it. Carrying water into space for lengthy expeditions results and hence the need for a programme to develop water harvesting techniques on these celestial objects.
Under the Artemis program, astronauts will be searching for water on the south pole of the moon. It is unknown in which form they will find water.
“The water we’ll find when the next men and first women explore the lunar surface for the Artemis program is liable to be mixed with contaminants that need to be removed before drinking, or use as fuel,” said Douglas Terrier, NASA chief technologist. “Learning how to safely and efficiently prospect for and harvest water is key for sustainable human exploration – not only on the Moon, but also on Mars and at other far reaches of our solar system.”
Under this programme, eligible undergraduates and graduates will be expected to design and build hardware that will help astronauts identify, map and drill through different kinds of subsurface layers followed by a method to extract water from the ice blocks obtained.
“Access to water is a key consideration for space exploration,” said Richard (Rick) Davis, assistant director for science and exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Technological advancements that enable humans to ‘live off the land’ on distant worlds and use resources such as water, will unlock significant opportunities to explore our universe first-hand.”
The teams selected will be demonstrating the capabilities of their water harvesting systems in a three-day competition at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, in June 2021. Out of these top-performing teams may also be awarded with travel stipends to showcase their design at a future NASA-chosen event or aerospace conference.
“The Artemis program is inspiring the brightest minds in academia, and it is important for us to provide those talented students with unique, hands-on opportunities to contribute to the future of human space exploration,” said Dr. Prasun Desai, deputy associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). “We look forward to seeing their technological breakthroughs as they progress through the competition.”
Earlier this year, NASA also launched a challenge for the best-designed toilet. The winner of the award will receive a whopping 20,000 dollars whereas reward for the second-best and third-best invention was 10,000 and 5,000 dollars respectively.