As NASA continues to focus its attention on the Red Planet, it is launching a related program closer to home.
Through its In Situ Resource Utilization Challenge, the agency is looking for ways to use in situ (in place) Martian resources to create a human presence on Mars. The public can submit designs for structures on Mars that would use existing material.
“Exploring Mars and other worlds is a herculean endeavor. Like other agencies across the federal government, NASA recognizes that our success will be enhanced greatly by involving people with all kinds of knowledge, skill sets and ideas in our work,” said NASA’s Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan.
Using resources already on Mars could save NASA more than $100,000 per 2.2 pounds of cargo each launch.
The challenge, run by NineSigma Inc., is part of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), which provides crowd-based challenges as a way to solve difficult problems.
It’s being conducted in collaboration with Swamp Works, a lab at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida used to find creative solutions for the problems that come with deep space exploration.
“In situ resource utilization is key to our exploration of the universe,” said Robert Mueller, senior technologist at Swamp Works.
“We must find ways to make what we need once we are at our destination. For example, the soil on Mars could be used to make modular structural building blocks to make shelters, landing pads and other useful structures. We are looking for creative and novel solutions from all types of people.”
NASA will award $10,000 to first place and $2,500 each to two second-place submissions.