NASA is gearing up for future exploration of the Moon using tools of all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some of the hardware that NASA might send to the Moon will be large rovers capable of supporting instruments, and others will be very small and miniaturized. Something that NASA is looking into for exploring the Moon’s surface is the use of small rovers able to provide mission flexibility and collect information about the lunar surface.
NASA says that these smaller rovers would collect data that can be helpful for the NASA Artemis program. NASA’s JPL in Southern California is running a public prize competition seeking designs for miniaturized payloads for future missions. The contest is called the “Honey, I Shrunk the NASA Payload” challenge and wants instrument designs that could help support a sustained human lunar presence, demonstrate and advance the use of resources found on the Moon, and enable new space science.
The payloads that NASA is seeking for this challenge are about the size of a bar of soap measuring a maximum of 3.9 inches by 3.9 inches by 1.9 inches and weighing no more than 0.8 pounds. The first section of the challenge seeking ideas will be followed by new competitions to prototype, test, and deliver the miniaturized payloads.
NASA says that the competition is intended to generate a maturation pipeline of next-generation instruments, sensors, technologies, and experiments for near-term lunar exploration. Participants in the competition have an opportunity to win part of a $160,000 prize pool across several categories. JPL is working with the NASA Tournament Lab to host the challenge on the heroX crowdsourcing platform.
The contest is accepting submissions through June 1, 2020. Funding is from the NASA Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative. There is no indication of when or if the technology developed under this program will be sent to the Moon’s surface.