Washington: The US space agency asked university students to design a metal production pipeline on the Moon, from extracting metal from lunar minerals to creating structures and tools.
The ability to mine metal and build the necessary infrastructure on the Moon advances the Artemis program’s goal of a sustained human presence on the lunar surface, NASA said in a statement.
“Here at home, metal forging has long been a key part of building our homes and infrastructure, and the same is true when working towards a lasting presence on the Moon,” said Niki Werkheiser, director of technological maturation within the agency’s Space Technology. Directorate of Missions (STMD).
“This challenge gives students the opportunity to help develop future technology that will help us find, process and manufacture metal on the lunar surface,” Werkheiser added.
The 2023 Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing (BIG) Ideas Challenge invites university students to address some of the most critical needs in space exploration and help create the mission capabilities that could make new discoveries possible.
Teams of students will develop innovative ways to extract and convert metals from minerals found on the Moon, such as ilmenite and anorthite, to enable metal fabrication on the Moon.
The NASA-funded challenge offers development prizes of up to $180,000 to up to eight selected teams to build and demonstrate their conceptual designs and share the results of their research and testing at the culminating forum in November 2023 .
The availability of derived metals on the Moon would enable the infrastructure needed for a lunar base – including pipes, electrical cables, landing pads, transport rails and pressure vessels to hold volatile substances like fuel – to be manufactured locally using additive manufacturing or 3D printing.
“NASA is already considering supporting longer-term missions to the Moon. This theme of the BIG Idea Challenge connects university teams to the push toward a sustained human presence on the Moon and other planets,” said Tomas Gonzalez-Torres, Space Grant Project Manager in the Office of STEM Engagement at the Nasa.