NASA reveals the Moon water excavation concepts that won $500k

NASA has its sights set on the Moon in a big way, but establishing a more permanent presence on the lunar surface will require a variety of new technology. One issue that must be addressed is water; though the Moon is home to icy water reserves, astronauts will need a way to harvest the substance as a useable resource. As it tends to do, NASA offered money in exchange for concepts from teams around the US — and now it is back with the winners.

Back in November, NASA announced a new challenge called Break the Ice Lunar Challenge. The space agency sought concepts on new ways for astronauts to excavate resources on the Moon, including the most critical of all resources, water. These water reserves are trapped as icy in the dark, cold craters located at the Moon's poles.

The icy regolith (Moon dust) presents a unique challenge compared to excavating ice on Earth, not the least of which is due to regolith's sharp and messy qualities. Beyond that, the greatest icy regolith reserves on the Moon are located in craters that are permanently dark, causing visibility issues, plus the temperatures are extremely cold.

In its update on the challenge today, NASA revealed that a total of 13 teams won their share of the collective $500,000 prize, with the greatest award going to Redwire Space in Florida at $125,000. The team presented a two-rover concept that would involve the company's L-Rex excavator to gather the ice, which would be transported and deposited by L-Tran.

Other teams given lesser award amounts include Colorado School of Mines, Austere Engineering, Aurora Robotics, Rocket M, Team AA-Star, and more. Of the 13 winners, the bottom 10 — who each will receive $25,000 — presented what NASA calls "viable and innovative ideas" that it may find beneficial in the near future.