Transforming in situ materials such as regolith or basalt into useful structural elements is a significant way to reduce the mass of materials launched as payload from Earth. Considering exploration on Mars, for every kilogram of native materials used, one saves 11 kg of transportation propellant and spacecraft mass required to launch to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Given the cost for LEO is US$10,000/kg, one avoids at least US$110,000/kg of cost by using 1 kg of in situ materials, making space pioneering on Mars more affordable and feasible.
One could use surface-based materials such as regolith or basalt to produce structural elements that can be interconnected to create launch/landing pads; blast protection berms; roads and walkways; radiation, thermal, and micro-meteorite shielding insulation and structures; equipment shelters; pressure vessels for fluids storage; ablative atmospheric entry heat shields; construction foundations; and other useful structures.
Total prize pool of US$15,000 available in the form of:
One First Place Prize of US$10,000
Two Second Place Prizes of US$2,500
NASA will recognize prizewinners through published announcements and individual profile stories. Successful applicants may also have the opportunity for future collaboration with NASA.
Acceptance of prize grants NASA with an unlimited license to use winning methodologies.
Demonstrate and/or provide analysis that shows a method for converting granular regolith or basalt into a useful product to support manufacture of structural elements.
Define a materials production system configuration that preferably meets the constraints summarized in Challenge document
Your proposal should demonstrate and/or provide analysis for meeting the payload constraints of Table 2 in the Challenge document, assuming an unlimited supply of in situ regolith or basalt.
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The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) seeks proposals for systems that will convert in situ materials into interlocking structural elements for construction that can support exploration on a planet. NASA’s focus is to support extra-terrestrial exploration on the Moon or on Mars, but the technology could also be useful on Earth.