Friday, November 09, 2007

2008 Regolith Excavation Challenge Registration Opens; MoonROx Challenge Announced

As I recently posted, the California Space Authority hinted (on Matt's Blog) that they'd be presenting the official rules to the Transforming Space Conference (which they are hosting, or just finished hosting). As I mentioned in the same post, Ken Davidian, representing NASA Centennial Challenges, also presented at the conference.

What I didn't guess from this news is the following (another post at Matt's Blog):

Team Registration Open!

During the Transforming Space 2007 Conference today, following a keynote address by the Honorable Shana Dale, Ken Davidian announced the opening of team registration for the 2008 Regolith Excavation Challenge and also the opening of a $1M prize for the 2008 MoonROx Challenge. The 2008 Regolith Excavation Challenge will take place during the Summer of 2008. CSEWI is currently in negotiations with California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo in order to conduct the competition on campus.

That's one densely packed nugget of space prize news!

Check out the Regolith Excavation Site main page (which includes a cool flyer I haven't seen before that emphasizes the mobility requirements for the excavators this year, but that also gives nice pictures from last year's excavators). Don't overlook the registration page, and the frequently asked questions. Actually the one thing I don't see is the official rules, but I could have missed them, or they could be posted soon. I'd keep checking the next few days if I were a competitor (or use the contact list to find out).

Meanwhile the rules are available for the $1 Million MoonROx Challenge to extract breathable oxygen from lunar regolith simulant. Check out the MoonROx flyer, which has a similar look to the regolith excavation flyer. As expected, this prize is a bit different from the other Centennial Challenges so far in that it's a "first to demonstrate the capability" type of challenge, rather than an annual competition. You'd better be serious when you try to demonstrate your capability, because there's a hefty demonstration fee and other expenses to consider.

Here's a little background information, mostly beyond my technical abilities, on ISRU as conceived in 1993, including detailed discussions of the chemistry of extracting oxygen from lunar regolith.

I also got the following mailing from the California Space Authority that has even more details. Normally I'd give a link to something like this, but I can't find one (I assume it will appear on search engines soon ...?), and I think the whole thing is worth passing along and is intended for a public audience, so here it is:

November 8, 2007

California Space Authority
Matthew Everingham


2008 Regolith Excavation Challenge and 2008 MoonROx Challenge Begin as NASA Celebrates its Fiftieth Year

LOS ANGELES – The Honorable Shana Dale, Deputy Administrator of NASA, started the day off at the Transforming Space 2007 Conference this morning by extolling NASA’s fifty years of accomplishments. In so doing, she set the stage for the announcement of the $1.75 million in NASA prize money for the 2008 Regolith Excavation Challenge and the 2008 MoonROx Challenge (Moon Regolith Oxygen), both designed to learn how to sustain prolonged lunar operations.

“Californians have played a major role in space exploration since the very beginning,” stated Shana Dale. “Since its founding, California has always been a place of promise, a place where people are inspired to reach high, to work hard and to dream big. Today, California is still the place of dreamers and discoverers.”

California hosts a large number of industrial, entrepreneurial, academic and government entities that contribute to space exploration and discovery. The Golden State hosts a robust space enterprise, including three NASA Centers – Ames Research Center, Dryden Flight Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

In the spirit of Shana Dale’s California Dreamin’ comments, Ken Davidian, Program Director for NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program announced, “It is a pleasure to be working with the California Space Education and Workforce Institute and the California Space Authority in helping make NASA’s exploration goals a reality. The 2008 Regolith Excavation Challenge and the 'new and improved' MoonROx Challenge will push innovation in technologies that will be required if we are to accomplish the nation's civil and commercial space goals.

”The Regolith Excavation Challenge offers a $750,000 purse to contestants who meet the requirements in new technologies designed to excavate lunar regolith. Excavation is a necessary first step towards lunar resource utilization, and the unique physical properties of lunar regolith make excavation a difficult technical challenge. Advances in lunar regolith excavation have the potential to contribute significantly to the nation's space exploration operations.

The MoonROx Challenge will tempt contestants with a $1 million purse. This challenge is designed to promote the development of technologies and processes to extract breathable oxygen from lunar regolith on the scale of a pilot plant. Efficient production of breathable oxygen from in-situ lunar resources has the potential to contribute significantly to NASA’s exploration mission and space operations.

“NASA’s contributions to science have had transformational affects on our everyday lives,” noted Andrea Seastrand, Executive Director of the California Space Authority (CSA). “In planning for the next fifty years of space exploration, we are excited to be working with NASA to offer $1.75 million in prize money for programs that will find ways to prolong life on the lunar surface. We are proud to be involved in an effort that could potentially transform man’s relationship with the moon far into the future.”

“We are reaching towards the future of space exploration, and we are calling on students and innovators to bring success a few steps closer,” continued Dr. Jack Gregg, Executive Director of the California Space Education and Workforce Institute, the organization responsible for putting on the challenges. “We are proud to support the NASA Centennial Challenges program and its development of space exploration."

For more information about NASA’s fiftieth year anniversary, go to:

For more information about the 2008 Regolith Excavation Challenge, go to:

For more information about the 2008 MoonROx Challenge, go to: