The competition became known in April: participants were invited to come up with a design for a miniature instrument for exploring the moon. The winners' designs can be used in 2024, when astronauts are sent to the moon.
Modern instruments for studying the lunar surface are bulky, heavy and require high energy costs. But future exploration of the Earth's satellite will also require small mobile platforms and lunar rovers, which will make the mission more flexible and will quickly collect information about the resources and environment of the Moon.
To get new ideas, NASA announced a competition “Honey, I have reduced the NASA payload”. Participants were asked to create tools that would help astronauts and engineers on Earth on future missions. It is important that the developments are small - 10 * 10 * 5 centimeters (about the size of a bar of soap) - and weigh no more than 400 grams.
“Smaller, more mobile platforms are changing the playing field,” said Sabah Baks, JPL technologist. "They will allow us to develop technology to do more exploration and science."
Competitions were held in two directions: "Lunar Wednesday" and "Lunar resource potential". In the first category, it was proposed to create an instrument for studying the activity of the Sun and the level of radiation on the Moon. The winner was Sun Slicer, which developed an X-ray spectrometer with a built-in camera. It will conduct research on the heliosphere, measure solar activity, and monitor the level of radiation on the moon.
The category "Lunar resource potential" was attended by developers of devices for studying the lunar surface, which will find resources useful on Earth - minerals and gases - and needed by astronauts, such as water. The first here was Puli Space Technologies, which created a detector for finding and mapping hydrogen - and therefore all hydrogen-containing volatiles.
“The ideas from the participants were outstanding,” Bucks said. "These projects could help NASA maintain a human presence on the moon." The winners received $ 30 thousand each, and a total of 160 thousand prizes were distributed. It is expected that after that there will be new competitions for prototyping, testing and implementation of the winning designs.
NASA is going to use these ideas for the Artemis mission, which is scheduled for 2024. As part of it, they want to send the first two researchers and instruments to create lunar research platforms to the satellite in order to ensure the constant presence of people on the moon by 2028. The agency will use all the developments for future missions to Mars.