HeroX, the social network for crowdsourced innovation, has just launched the prize competition "NASA's Watts on the Moon Challenge.” The initiative seeks to create incentives for energy solutions that can power a sustained human presence on the moon and will offer up to $5 million in prizes.
The question of how to generate robust energy on the lunar surface has interested NASA for years. Although solar energy is abundant, nights on the moon can last 350 hours at a time. Combined with extreme temperature changes, the challenge of energy management, distribution, and storage will determine the viability of the long-term presence of humans on the moon.
HeroX has proposed crowdsourcing solutions that could not only prepare us for lunar colonization but also lead to sustainable commercial developments on earth. This has exciting implications for space exploration and energy issues overall.
The Watts on the Moon Challenge will offer up to $5 million in total prizes to the winning teams, who will also have a chance to demonstrate their solutions at NASA facilities.
HeroX and Crowdsourcing Space
HeroX is a social network co-founded in 2013 by Christian Cotichini and Peter Diamandis. The platform takes advantage of innovation and human ingenuity solving challenges using the power of the crowd.
Challenges in HeroX cover a large variety of sizes and topic areas. Clients design challenges around the problems they need assistance with, and the platform distributes them across solvers that work on solutions and can win a prize. HeroX also provides support from experts to set up challenges, as well as templates, best practice guides, and tools.
On average, challenges run between two and four months. After it’s finished, the crowd members stay in contact, ensuring their expertise can be requested in the future. Because the platform focuses on a target audience of interested parties, the solutions usually include a good variety of individuals and proposals.
A Sustained Human Presence on the Moon
In order to support a sustained human presence and the beginning of industrial activity on the moon, we will need to create unprecedented capacity for electrical and thermal energy distribution and management.
Extreme environmental conditions such as acute changes in temperature and extended night hours create particular complexities for solar power use. Just as it happens on Earth, demand for additional renewable energies is rising, but so does the need for distribution and storage solutions that address intermittency and resiliency.
NASA is seeking to work with innovators from different disciplines to explore solutions that can be tested and demonstrated on the moon in the coming years. These will include collecting regolith, creating a water production plant, and generating oxygen.
Watts on the Moon
The challenge prepared in collaboration with NASA is called Watts on the Moon. It will consist of two phases totaling no more than 36 months and offers up to $5 million in prizes — plus the potential opportunity to test the solutions at NASA facilities.
The Mission Scenario will have three Mission Activities based on anticipated operations and environmental features of lunar surface human and robotic exploration. Teams can choose one or more of them and make proposals for energy distribution, management, and/or storage solutions. If they meet or exceed a minimum score, they will be eligible for a prize purse. If a team addresses three Mission Activities and meets the minimum score for each, they would be eligible for three prizes.
The three Mission Activities will present different needs for power capacity, distances between NASA power plants and sites of operations, and different mobility features and operational duty cycles. The different challenge scenarios will all occur in the vacuum of the lunar environment, at a lunar polar region where sunlight availability is irregular.
Teams will have six months to register and submit their concept designs for Phase 1. Prizes for this phase will total up to $500,000 (divided into three $100,000 prizes and four runner-up $50,000 prizes). If promising submissions for Phase 1 demonstrate viable approaches to achieving the Challenge goals, teams will have a chance to build and demonstrate their ideas in Phase 2 — which is expected to last 28 months. Prizes for Phase 2 will total about $4.5 million.
All interested teams must register for the Challenge before March 25, 2021.