NASA Reaches Out to Universities for Help With Lunar Dust Problem

The winners of NASA's Big Idea Challenge could see their technology used for future space missions.
Chris Young

Did you know that dust is a serious problem that must be considered when it comes to the future of space exploration?

Lunar dust, in particular, is largely made of small particles that can damage spacesuits, machinery, and equipment and in, future habitats, might even pose a health risk by damaging astronauts' lungs.

In a bid to find solutions to this problem, NASA is reaching out to university students for help.


Dust prevention for the future of space travel

As part of its Artemis program for sustainable human exploration of the Moon, NASA is reaching out to top students to help find a way to remove lunar dust from where it's not supposed to be — or stop it from getting there in the first place.

Through its annual Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge, NASA will be looking for solutions from students for several categories. These include, dust prevention and mitigation during landings, spacesuit dust tolerance, exterior dust clean up, and controlling lunar dust within habitats, NASA explained in a press release.

An 'unparalleled opportunity' for the Artemis generation

The five to ten team entries that are selected as winners will receive up to $180,000 each to build, test, and present their dust mitigating technologies.

"This competition gives students an unparalleled opportunity as members of the Artemis generation to help overcome the historically challenging technical obstacles of mitigating lunar dust," said Niki Werkheiser, NASA’s Game Changing Development program executive within the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). 

The 2021 BIG Idea Challenge will accept entries from teams composed of five to twenty-five undergraduate students from accredited U.S.-based colleges and universities. For more information visit NASA's Big Idea Challenge page.

It's not the first time NASA has reached out to civilians for help. Only last month, it made a call for help designing future Moon toilets, and in April it announced a $160,000 reward for a successful mini payload design.

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