NASA launches competition for youth to design lunar robot

NASA wants to return to the Moon, and it intends to put the new generation at the heart of its project.

The ambitions of the US space agency are well known. NASA wants to return to the moon, and has been for a long time. The culmination of this desire should be achieved in the coming years with the Artemis program, the first mission of which could begin next February.

But while this return to the Moon is becoming more and more precise, NASA is not lacking in ideas to involve America, to which it owes its funding. Thus in a scientific communication operation, the space agency announced the creation of a competition for the youngest, from nursery school to final year. The “Lunabotics Junior Contest” will therefore aim to build a lunar robot, capable of excavating.

Indeed, the American agency explains that the robot will be of great importance in the coming years, while humans will try to settle permanently on lunar soil. In doing so, it will become a real scientific basis, but also of transit. Takeoffs from the Moon being much less restrictive than from Earth, it would be easier to undertake space travel from our satellite.

NASA hopes for this to be able to make concrete with regolith, the lunar soil in short. The robot will therefore have to be able to dig the ground, recover the material (at the South pole) before transporting it over a certain distance directly to the constructions of the astronauts of the Artemis mission. This step is crucial in the development of a possible colony on our lunar neighbor, as it would drastically reduce the amount of materials needed during a takeoff.

A very precise specification

If this important mission has therefore been entrusted to children, NASA is no less demanding. In addition to the information on the size that the robot will have to make, people wishing to compete are asked to present the different elements that will be used by the device to dig the ground and move the lunar regolith over fairly long distances. Students are also asked to give a precise description of their robot, in particular on the quantity of rock that it would be able to transport. Two main axes of study are precisely to be developed on this subject, either the massive but slow robot, transporting a lot of rocks at one time, or it is small and agile and able to go back and forth much more regularly.

NASA is also asking students to be very careful to factor moon dust into their calculations. The latter is indeed able to stick everywhere, especially when the robot is going to lift large quantities of regolith. It will therefore be necessary that the latter be resistant to it so as not to jeopardize the entire mission.

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