NASA M2M X-Hab Challenge offers university teams up to $50k awards

NASA has announced a new challenge that seeks proposals and more from university teams interested in helping humans return to the Moon (and travel beyond to Mars). The new opportunity is called the 2021 Moon to Mars eXploration Systems and Habitation (M2M X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge, M2M X-Hab for short, and it is accepting proposals from university teams through the end of April.

NASA is offering awards ranging from $15,000 to $50,000 for proposals that cover a variety of topics, including vehicle and habitation systems, robotic precursor activities, foundational systems, and human spaceflight architecture systems focused on the future Gateway.

The space agency is specifically looking for proposals on how to overcome 'technology barriers' related to these topics, as well as proposals on 'advancing technology' in any of the categories. Only university teams can participate in this challenge; they must send NASA their proposals by April 24 for consideration. Awarded funds will be used for studies, producing functional products, and more.

NASA describes the challenge as a way to 'build partnerships' with the next generation of scientists, particularly with a focus on its new Artemis program and its ambitions to get humans to the Moon and, eventually, all the way to Mars. Work done under the challenge can help university students get a foothold in future aerospace careers, as well.

Awards will be issued by the space agency's Advanced Exploration Systems in collaboration with the National Space Grant Foundation. NASA has been forming partnerships with a number of private teams and companies to bolster its lunar ambitions, which include the launch of the Gateway, robotics missions that will search for water on the Moon, and the eventual return of two astronauts to the lunar surface.