Status Report

New NASA Centennial Challenges Announcement Break the Ice Lunar Challenge

By SpaceRef Editor
November 19, 2020
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In accordance with the NASA Prize Authority, the NASA Centennial Challenges program has released Phase 1 of the Break the Ice Lunar Challenge.  Interested teams that wish to compete may now register on the official Challenge site at  


NASA Centennial Challenges is a program of prize competitions to stimulate innovation in technologies of interest and value to NASA and the nation.  NASA is providing the prize purse, and NASA Centennial Challenges will be managing the Challenge with support from Ensemble.


Break the Ice Lunar Challenge will offer Teams up to $500,000 in prize purses in Phase 1. The Challenge will have two phases, the initiation of Phase 2 is contingent on the emergence of promising submissions in Phase 1 that demonstrate a viable approach to achieving the Challenge goals. Phase 1 of the Break the Ice Lunar Challenge is focused on incentivizing new ideas and approaches to a system architecture for excavation and movement of icy regolith and water on the lunar surface. For Phase 1, the Challenge describes a hypothetical Mission Scenario and asks Teams to design a system architecture addressing necessary hardware, concept of operations, lunar environmental conditions, and specific performance analyses, as well as supporting materials that address credibility and feasibility of the system architecture.


Official documentation related to this Challenge can be found at




NASA welcomes applications from individuals, groups of individuals, and/or organization or entities that meet the eligibility requirements provided below.


In order to participate in the Challenge, each individual, whether acting alone or as part of a Competitor Team must identify their nationality.


  • No individual competitor shall be a citizen of a country on the NASA Export Control Program list of Designated Countries List Category II: Countries determined by the Department of State to support terrorism. The current list of designated countries can be found at Please check the link for latest updates. This includes individuals with dual citizenship unless they are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent U.S. resident (green card holder).
  • While China is not a Category II designated country, pursuant to Public Law 116-6, Section 530, NASA is prohibited from participating, collaborating, or coordinating bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned entity.  Team members who are citizens of China but not affiliated with a Chinese entity may be permitted to participate on a Team.
  • Subject to the conditions set forth herein, foreign nationals and foreign national teams can participate in the Challenge.  However, they are not eligible for a cash prize, and must acknowledge acceptance of this by signing and submitting a Foreign Participant Acknowledgement Form.
  • A competitor team-designated lead shall be responsible for both compliance with the rules (including prize eligibility rules) and the actions of all members of the team.


In order to be eligible to win a prize:


  1. Individuals must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States and be 18 years of age or older.
  2. Organizations must be an entity incorporated in and maintaining a primary place of business in the United States.
  3. Teams must be comprised of otherwise eligible individuals or organizations and led by an otherwise eligible individual or organization.
  4. Team leader must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.


A Team may include foreign nationals and be eligible to win prize money as long as the foreign national signs and delivers a disclosure (separate form) wherein he/she discloses his/her citizenship and acknowledge that he/she is not eligible to win a prize from NASA, AND


  1. The foreign national is an employee of an otherwise eligible U.S. entity participating in the Challenge,
  2. The foreign national is an owner of such entity, so long as foreign citizens own less than 50% of the interests in the entity,
  3. The foreign national is a contractor under written contract to such entity, OR
  4. The foreign national is a full time student, during the time of the Challenge, of an otherwise eligible entity which is an accredited institution of higher learning, AND the student is during the Challenge in the United States on a valid student visa and is otherwise in compliance with all local, state, and federal laws and regulations regarding the sale and export of technology.


Team Members must furnish proof of eligibility (including proof of citizenship or permanent resident status, for individuals, and proof of incorporation and primary place of business, for entities) which proof must be satisfactory to NASA in its sole discretion.  A Team’s failure to comply with any aspect of the eligibility requirements shall result in the Team being disqualified from winning a prize from NASA.


U.S. government employees may enter the competition, or be members of prize-eligible teams, so long as they are not acting within the scope of their Federal employment, and they rely on no facilities, access, personnel, knowledge or other resources that are available to them as a result of their employment except for those resources available to all other participants on an equal basis.


U.S. government employees participating as individuals, or who submit applications on behalf of an otherwise eligible organization, will be responsible for ensuring that their participation in the Competition is permitted by the rules and regulations relevant to their position and that they have obtained any authorization that may be required by virtue of their government position. Failure to do so may result in the disqualification of them individually or of the entity which they represent or in which they are involved.


Teams will be ineligible to win a prize if any Team Member is a Federal entity or Federal employee acting within the scope of their employment.  This includes any U.S. Government organization or organization principally or substantially funded by the Federal Government, including Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, Government-owned, contractor operated (GOCO) facilities, and University Affiliated Research Centers.  No U.S. government funds may be used to participate in the Challenge.  Any such entity or individual shall obtain prior written approval from their cognizant ethics officer that such participation does not violate federal personnel laws or applicable agency policy.  A copy of this approval to participate in the Challenge shall promptly be provided to Ensemble.


Current employees, consultants, and students of Ensemble may only participate as Team Members when the Team is not competing for a prize from NASA.  Participation of such parties as Team Members on a Team will make a Team ineligible for any prize award. 


A team-designated team lead shall be responsible for the actions of and compliance with the rules, including prize eligibility rules, by all members of his or her team. The final deadline for submitting the Registration is 11:59 PM Eastern Time on June 18, 2021. Interested teams should submit their registration by 11:59 PM Eastern Time on June 18, 2021.  No further requests for review will be accepted after this date. 


This email is being sent on behalf of the Centennial Challenges program and is intended as an informational announcement to the science and research communities. Thank you for your continued interest in NASA. Please refer to the for contact information. 


SpaceRef staff editor.