The California Space Education Workforce Institute (CSEWI) hit a groundbreaking number of entrants this week—25 teams—for the upcoming 2008 Regolith Excavation Challenge involving a NASA prize of $750,000. Scheduled for Saturday, August 2, 2008 at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, the competition requires teams to build a roving lunar excavator that can autonomously "navigate, excavate, and transfer 150 kg of simulated lunar regolith" into a collector bin within 30 minutes.
California Secretary Dale E. Bonner of The Business, Transportation and Housing Agency (BTH) was quick to praise those who had registered for the historic competition.
“The Business, Transportation and Housing Agency applauds the teams and individuals that have come from every corner of the nation to compete at the 2008 Regolith Excavation Challenge and test their creative prowess in building a functional excavating rover for future lunar mining,” adds Bonner. “Their expertise and spirit of innovation benefit California and the entire country as the resulting applied technologies create new industries and dynamic jobs of the future."
The majority of the teams represent the private sector, while four of them are affiliated with universities. Several of the teams have backgrounds that are not traditionally associated with the aerospace industry, such as the toy industry, IT, while several do have an aerospace background. The rules for this year are much more demanding than the 2007 competition with triple the prize dollars to match. Excavators have to autonomously navigate, avoid obstacles, and excavate more than double their mass of regolith in order to win. In addition, the teams are required to use less power than an XBOX 360 or a Playstation 3 video game console. Each team has just one chance at the prize. All four teams who participated last year are returning.
Teams registered this year are the following:
• Technology Ranch, Arroyo Grande, CA
• William B. Cushman, Ph.D., Pensacola FL
• Toy Garden Inc. Friday Harbor, WA
• Boppers Huntington Beach, CA
• UBC TREAD Robotics, The Woodlands, TX
• Green Cheese Solutions, Hudson, WI
• Lunaccretion, Westminster, CO
• Team of One, Berkley, MI
• Terra Engineering, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
• Team Terrich, North Kansas City, MO
• Lunar Miners, Rolla, MO
• Ajax Laboratories, LLC, Victor, NY
• Kingfish Tech, East Peoria, IL
• LREX ONE, Littleton, CO
• Mocha Boca II, East Peoria, IL
• Sandstorm, North Royalton, OH
• Dig-It, Honolulu, HI
• LunOREDIGGERS, Golden, CO
• Full Scale Robotics Inc., Port St. Lucie, FL
• Cal Poly / Slobotics, San Luis Obispo, CA
• Team Waldbaum, Sunnyvale, CA
• Next Step Robotics, Houston, TX
• Paul's Robotics, Worcester, MA
• McGill LunarEx Team, Cincinnati, OH
• Lunar Arc, Irvine, CA
CSEWI administers the Regolith Excavation Challenge and was selected as an Allied Organization by NASA. The Regolith Excavation Challenge is co-hosted by the California Space Authority (CSA) and the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo College of Engineering. The event is sponsored by Diani Building Corporation, Empirical Systems Aerospace, and the California Business Transportation and Housing Agency (BTH).
Prize funding is provided by the NASA Centennial Challenges Program that seeks to drive progress in aerospace technology of NASA's missions through non-traditional sources. The event promotes the development of new technologies to excavate lunar regolith by opening it up to public competition.
Excavation is a necessary first step towards lunar resource utilization, and the unique physical properties of lunar regolith make excavation a difficult technical challenge. Advances in lunar regolith excavation have the potential to contribute significantly to the nation's space exploration operations.