NASA Regolith Excavation Challenge

From Lunarpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Please note that this contest has nothing to do with Lunarpedia or Moon Society.
Details are only posted here to foster debate on how to meet the challenge.

This contest took place on May 12th, 2007

No winners

Contest rolls over to 2008.

The Challenge

From NASA - Centennial Challenges Descriptions and Resources

The Regolith Excavation Challenge promotes the development of new technologies to excavate lunar regolith. 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 extraction have the potential to contribute significantly to the nation's space exploration operations.

From California Space Authority

Teams competing in the 2007 Regolith Excavation Centennial Challenge will build autonomously operating systems to excavate lunar regolith and deliver it to a collector. This Challenge will be conducted in a "head-to-head" competition format. Teams will be challenged to excavate and deliver as much regolith as possible in 30 minutes.

  • Each team's excavation system must be fully autonomous
  • Systems will perform in a square sandbox filled with compressed lunar regolith simulant.
  • Mass of the system cannot exceed 40 kilograms.
  • 30 Watts of DC power will be provided to the system.
  • Each system will have 30 minutes to excavate as much regolith as possible and deliver it to a fixed collector adjacent to the sandbox.
  • The total purse of $250,000 will go to the winning teams excavating the most regolith above 150 kilograms.

The rule book:


The rules clearly state:

Power Source - The Power Source, provided by the Allied Partner during the
Competition Attempt, will be a DC electrical source of 30 watts.

Allied Partner (in this case) = California Space Authority
Presumably this is the "continuous" DC input power to your robot.
The weight of the power supply does not count towards robot weight.


Ideas for meeting the challenge

Entrants (2007)

Technology Ranch

Technology Ranch, Pismo Beach
Jim Greenhaw entered Tech Ranch Tornado lunar regolith excavator into contest only one month prior to event.


Inverted bucket, continuous chain driven drag.

The buckets are moved to the end of a 4 foot horizontal boom where they flip over and contact the regolith, and drag it back towards the delivery ramp at the root of the pivot. The machine uses 3 motors driving the bucket chain mechanism, and one to pan the boom from side to side. The boom pivots vertically as the hole it digs becomes deeper.

At the contest:
Tech Ranch Tornado - Front End - YouTube video
Tech Ranch Tornado - Back End - YouTube video

Videos of an earlier test version: - Front View - avi video - Back View - avi video


143 pounds in 30 minutes.

The Lunar Miners

The Lunar Miners, University of Missouri-Rolla


2 conveyor belt machine.
Lunar Miners 2007
Lunar Miners 2007 description - YouTube video


Broke down while digging.

Duplex Engineering

Duplex Engineering, Michigan, Geoffrey Pulk

Duplex Engineering Excavator video - YouTube video


Broke down while digging.

Mendenhall BFD

Todd Mendenhall, Mendenhall BFD excavator.


Mendenhall BFD - YouTube video<br\> Mendenhall's BFD Operating - YouTube video


Broke down while digging.


No winners in 2007, prize rolled over and added to 2008 purse.

Could we do it better


Projected Performance