In the movie “The Martian,” stranded astronaut Mark Watney survived on his own in an abandoned human habitat on Mars. Now, NASA is looking for some down-to-Earth ideas about how real astronauts could live off the land on the Red Planet.
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The agency is offering $10,000 to the first-place winner of the In Situ Resource Utilization Challenge, which challenges researchers to find a way to live using the resources available on Mars.
“NASA’s newest challenge is yet another stellar example of the agency’s commitment to harnessing the ingenuity of citizens as we seek to expand the frontiers of knowledge, capability and opportunity in space. 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 Stofan.
Mars’ surface features a variety of materials that could be leveraged in a survival situation: regolith or basalt could be used to build launch and landing pads, blast protection walls and protection berms, roads, and shielding, as well as atmospheric entry heat shields for spacecraft.
Two second place prizes of $2,500 will be awarded to the next-best submissions.
NASA spends more than $100,000 per 2.2 pounds of cargo on each space launch. Using resources already present on the Red Planet could make colonists’ lives more sustainable as well as saving NASA money.
The challenge is jointly run by two organizations: NineSigma Inc., part of the contest organizer NASA Tournament Lab, and Swamp Works, a deep space exploration laboratory at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“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.”
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense