Press Release

University Students Present Ideas to Shed Light on Unexplored Areas of the Moon

By SpaceRef Editor
January 4, 2021
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University students from across the United States will present their innovative concepts for lunar payloads that could be used to help NASA explore previously uncharted areas on the Moon.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will kick off the Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge virtual forum Jan. 6 at 10:30 a.m. EST. NASA will announce the team awards Jan. 11.

Presentations by the finalist teams will be livestreamed Jan. 6-7 and available to view after the event.

The teams presenting, and their technology concepts are:

– Arizona State University in Tempe

Ball-shaped probes and a spring catapult capable of launching them from a lunar lander to different locations in and around a crater.

– Colorado School of Mines in Golden with the University of Arizona in Tucson 

A wireless energy demonstration that uses lasers to power small stationary receivers on the Moon.

– Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire 

Small and lightweight robot explorers that travel and work independently or as a group.

– Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge

A lightweight tower that extends approximately 100 feet from a lunar lander.

– Michigan Technological University in Houghton 

A small rover to lay lightweight, superconducting cable that tethers to a lander as it traverses craters in permanently shadowed regions.

– Northeastern University in Boston 

This two-part system makes use of a small, legged rover and support module. At a crater’s rim, the rover would drop off the module and then autonomously navigate inside the permanently shadowed region to explore the terrain.

– Pennsylvania State University in State College 

An instrument to measure the composition of lunar soil in permanently shadowed regions. The technology uses a laser to determine the location and concentration of resources, such as water ice.

– University of Virginia in Charlottesville 

A high-power laser attached to a lander that is located on the rim of a crater. The laser beams energy to a rover inside the crater, remotely delivering power.

NASA selected the finalist teams and awarded funds of almost $1 million to develop their concepts and technologies, including ways to collect data in and around permanently shadowed regions on the Moon, generate wireless power for future infrastructure, enable autonomous mobility even in the most extreme environments, and more. Such systems could benefit NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program by helping study the Moon ahead of a human landing or establish a sustained presence. To provide realistic design parameters, students were required to design their concepts based on the lunar surface delivery capabilities of the commercial lunar lander providers.

The 2020 BIG Idea Challenge is sponsored by NASA through a collaboration between the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Game Changing Development program and the Office of STEM Engagement’s Space Grant and Fellowship project. The challenge is managed by the National Institute of Aerospace.

For the livestream agenda, visit:

To view the team’s digital posters, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.