NASA launches $5M competition to bring power to the moon

Power is one of the major obstacles to long-term lunar habitation. Can crowdsourcing help?

A moon night can last 350 hours! NASA competition seeks solution to solar power challenge

Nights on the moon can last up to 350 hours. That creates some big technical challenges as NASA's Artemis program gears up to send people back to the moon.

In addition to issues like extreme temperature changes, one of the biggest difficulties presented by lunar night is the loss of solar power. For long-term habitation to be viable, NASA needs to find a sustainable solution. To that, it's launching a $5 million prize in its Watts on the Moon Challenge, which is being launched in collaboration with crowdsourcing platform HeroX.

This is part for the course for NASA, which often crowdsources technology solutions via competitions. Back in 2018 NASA selected winners in a challenge aimed at designing a better robotic arm. NASA previously teamed up with X Prize to develop new lunar lander technology. These competitions are one way the space agency is staying competitive amid widespread privatization of space travel and exploration.

"We are again proud to partner with NASA to crowdsource ingenious solutions to interstellar problems," says Christian Cotichini, CEO of HeroX. "This has exciting implications for space exploration, and it could also improve life down here on Earth, in terms of renewable energy use and storage. As the saying goes, 'shoot for the Moon and you'll land among the stars.' Our talented team of problem solvers will be doing just that."

Due to its potential to develop clean energy technologies that might be useful on earth, the competition is being closely watched outside the space community, as well. 

Participating teams will first receive a specific mission scenario with three mission activities related to energy distribution, management, and storage. The teams will choose their area of focus but may also decide to take on all three missions. The prize money will be divided between the mission activities. Like other NASA competitions, the cool-factor comes after development as participants demonstrate solutions for evaluation, which includes the possibility of sending the solution to the Moon. 

The prize is open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States who are 18 or older. Organizations can participate as well but must be incorporated in and primarily operating in the United States.