November 30, 2022

Lunar Robot Wars: ESA-ESRIC Space Resources Challenge

The emphasis of the contest is on prospecting: determining promising resources within a challenging lunar environment then identifying them in as much detail as possible, such as through visual examination or spectral analysis.
Mosaic of the lunar south pole from images gotten by ESAs SMART-1. The poles are spared the temperature level extremes of the two-week lunar days and nights experienced at lower latitudes. Credit: ESA
The lunar poles are a focus of interest for future exploration. They do not experience the crippling temperature extremes of the Moons two-week days and nights, and frozen water and other deposits are believed to be buried within permanently watched polar craters.
The Space Resources Challenge groups collected at Valkenberg in the Netherlands needed to contend with tough lighting conditions and possible loss of signal events to find resources, including mapping a small effect crater in the vicinity of the rovers lander– all within a 2 and a half hour time limit.
The 5 winners will be awarded EUR375 000 in ESA agreements, with a bigger prize swimming pool available after a follow-on field test hosted by ESRIC next year.

Driving and strolling rovers completed to survey a shadowy analog of the south polar lunar surface area for useable resources during the inaugural ESA-ESRIC Space Resources Challenge. Credit: ESA-M. Sabbatini
Driving and strolling rovers competed to survey a shadowy analog southern polar lunar surface area for useable resources during the inaugural ESA-ESRIC Space Resources Challenge. Some 13 teams from throughout Europe and Canada participated in last months field test, with the winners due to be announced shortly.
The Space Resources Challenge– supported by ESA and the European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC) in Luxembourg– is asking European (and Canadian) institutions and scientists to establish and demonstrate a system of several automobiles capable of prospecting resources on the Moon in the near future.
Wheeled and walking rovers contending in the inaugural ESA-ESRIC Space Resources Challenge. Some 13 groups from across Europe and Canada took part in Novembers field test, with the winners due to be revealed shortly. Credit: ESA
Massimo Sabbatini, supervising the contest for ESA, comments: “ESA is analyzing the outcomes of the very first field test of the Challenge and the competitors is intense. There was a broad range of individuals and technological options to the issue of prospecting: significantly different mobility methods– legged, wheeled, tracked, and so on– and methods, such as single versus multiple cars and aerial automobiles. The jury is out!”

Driving and walking rovers contended to survey a shadowy analog of the south polar lunar surface area for useable resources throughout the inaugural ESA-ESRIC Space Resources Challenge. Wheeled and walking rovers contending in the inaugural ESA-ESRIC Space Resources Challenge. Massimo Sabbatini, supervising the contest for ESA, remarks: “ESA is evaluating the results of the very first field test of the Challenge and the competition is intense.

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