One of the biggest challenges to equipment and astronauts living and working on the moon is dealing with moon dust. NASA reached out to university students around the country to help solve the problem of lunar dust in preparation for building sustainable human exploration on the moon. The competitive Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge and the Space Grant project saw NASA award nearly $1 million to seven university teams.
The awards will be used to develop innovative lunar dust mitigation solutions. NASA’s Nikki Werkheiser says that the challenge is an exciting opportunity for students and NASA. She says that lunar dust impacts everything on the moon, and many strategies to reduce or preventing its abrasive effects are required. Innovations developed by the students could help solve some of the most pressing problems with lunar dust.
Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, with Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, received money to develop a tufted electrostatic solution to regular adhesion. It uses layers of protection at a spacesuits most vulnerable points to protect against dust. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena received a grant for a habitat-orientable and modular electrodynamic shield, which is a collection of panels embedded with an electrodynamic dust shielding system to mitigate lunar dust and prevented it from getting into habitable spaces.
The Colorado School of Mines received a grant for a system with a polymer nozzle distribution area with a binder-regolith reinforced surface, a launch/landing pad, and a carbon fiber fabric barrier anchored to the surface that will be used as a landing and launchpad. In Atlanta, the Georgia Institute of Technology received money for a hybrid dust mitigation brush that utilizes EDS and UV technologies. It would be used to remove lunar regolith from spacesuits and other surfaces. The full list of awards and systems the universities plan to explore can be seen here.