When humans go to Mars, it will be imperative that they are able to use as much of the resources available to them as possible – including gases in the atmosphere and perhaps the soil itself. NASA is all too aware of this, and is now seeking ideas for how this could be achieved from the public.
The agency is running a competition called the In Situ (in place) Resource Utilization Challenge, which allows anyone to suggest an idea for making use of Martian resources. “One could use surface-based materials such as regolith or basalt to produce structural elements that can be interconnected to create launch/landing pads,” the challenge website suggests.
Other ideas include using the Martian soil for radiation shielding, construction foundations, and more. The agency estimates that proper resource utilization could save the agency more than $100,000 (£66,000) per one kilogram (2.2 pounds) in cargo costs when they eventually start sending humans to the Red Planet, which they expect to do some time in the 2030s.
First place in the challenge will receive $10,000 (£6,600), with two second place prizes of $2,500 (£1,600) up for grabs. Of course, winning the competition also grants NASA full license to use your idea how they please – although you could also score some more work with NASA out of it.
“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,” said NASA’s Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan in a statement, who launched the challenge last week. “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.”
The competition closes on December 3, with winners expected to be announced in late January 2016. A full list of rules and constraints for submissions is available online.