Colorado School of Mines has collaborated up with aerospace and defense leader Lockheed Martin to announce a global student design challenge open to all student teams coming from any accredited university worldwide. 

The Over the Dusty Moon Challenge aims to address one of the increasingly practical concerns as humans are looking to establish a sustainable presence on the surface of the Moon. As the lunar surface has much lower gravity than we do on Earth, students will be challenged to design, build, and demonstrate a system that can move lunar regolith (lunar soil) both horizontally and vertically. Regolith conveyance is among the key technologies that would allow efficient hauling and movement of lunar soil for various applications on the moon such as resource processing, construction, and manufacturing - all on the lunar surface.

Earth to the Moon
(Photo : Apollo 8 crewmember Bill Anders via Wikimedia Commons)
This view of the rising Earth greeted the Apollo 8 astronauts as they came from behind the Moon after the fourth nearside orbit. Earth is about five degrees above the horizon in the photo. The unnamed surface features in the foreground are near the eastern limb of the Moon as viewed from Earth. The lunar horizon is approximately 780 kilometers from the spacecraft.

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"This challenge builds on the rapid progress made in the field of Space Resources in recent years to address a problem of great practical significance," explains Dr. Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources and the Colorado School of Mines' Space Resources graduate program. "Being able to effectively move large quantities of regolith while minimizing the creation of harmful dust is critical to long-term human presence on the Moon."

An International Challenge

According to the Colorado School of Mines, the challenge begins immediately and they are accepting international entries. The Over the Dusty Moon Challenge is divided into two phases. Phase 1 will end with the submission of student proposals on the regolith conveyance system on November 19, 2021. Accepted entries will be judged by a panel of experts from Lockheed Martin, the Colorado School of Mines, and the Space Resources community.

Then, the top entries who make it through Phase 1 will be invited for Phase 2, where teams will be tasked to create a prototype of their proposed regolith conveyance system and demonstrating the systems they've created on the Mines campus, set for June 2022.

"Our academic partnership with Colorado School of Mines is vital to advancing technology and shaping the workforce of tomorrow," shares Kirk Shireman, vice president for the Lunar Exploration Campaigns at Lockheed Martin Space. He adds that The Over the Dusty Moon Challenge could foster innovation through student engagement. 

The Lockheed Martin exec adds: "We are delighted to be launching the challenge with Colorado School of Mines." 

Prizes for the successful participants include cash awards and the opportunity to present their concepts and prototype to the Space Resources Roundtable international conference, which is set right after The Over the Dusty Moon Challenge at the Mines campus.

The Regolith Conveyance Challenge

According to the report "Integrating Beneficiation Into Regolith Conveyance Systems" at NASA, a regolith conveyance solution could include hoppers, augers, haulers and dumpers, and pneumatic transport subsystems. 

Similarly, a 2021 study in the German journal BHM Berg- und Hüttenmännische Monatshefte notes that for the specific application of extracting oxygen from the surface of the moon, regolith is the top material for sustainable human presence. Regolith is a material on the lunar surface that is created by meteorite impacts, consisting of many raw elements in the form of oxide.


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