The top boffins at NASA appear to be so baffled by the problem of Moon dust that they willing to pay students £5,000 to attempt to figure out a way around the issue.
NASA is set to launch a new manned mission to the Moon in 2025.
Called Artemis III, it will make history by having a female astronaut as part of the team, with new suits made so that the crew can survive a longer-period of time living there than previously achieved.
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However, there is one big problem – Moon dust.
And NASA needs help to try and figure it out, so has launched the Human Lander Challenge.
Ashley Korzun, principal investigator for plume surface interaction, NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, said: “The Moon is covered with granular, rocky material called regolith, which can be lifted from the surface by rocket engines during landing and ascent. Understanding and reducing these effects are key challenges for NASA to overcome for safe lunar surface access.
“Besides creating a more challenging landing environment, disturbed lunar dust also can damage other assets NASA plans to establish on the Moon’s surface, like habitats, mobility systems, scientific experiments, and other critical infrastructure.”
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The new competition involves undergraduate and graduate students from US-based colleges and universities – sorry, brainy Brits.
Of those who enter, 12 teams will compete at a special event in June 2024 where they will all get around £5,000 to produce a “technical paper and any associated design models or prototypes to present in a competitive design review to a panel of NASA and industry subject matter experts,” NASA said.
From there, the winning team will get around £8,000, with £3,500 going to the second place team.
A £2,000 prize will go to the team coming third.
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Lisa Watson-Morgan, manager of the Human Landing Systems, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said: “It is our mission to have a lunar landing capability that allows astronauts to travel to the surface of the Moon and back safely on a regular basis.
“The challenge of managing the dust stirred up by lunar landers is a top priority, so this is a great opportunity for students to work with NASA in advancing humanity’s exploration of the Moon’s South Pole region under Artemis.
“We look forward to seeing what these teams come up with.”
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