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This week, NASA announced three new Centennial Challenge prizes—the first in five years :) Much like the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, these prizes set tasks to be completed for $1.5-2 million each.
Two of the new challenges are directly lunar-related:
- Night Rover Challenge: Demonstrate a solar-powered rover that can store its energy to operate during the lunar night. With the theorized Peak of Eternal Light shown to not quite exist (89% illumination being the max), and most of the Moon receiving less than that regardless, sustainable (and cost-effective) night operation will prove to be a critical leg-up for any lunar effort.
- Sample Return Robot Challenge: A prize for the aspiring Jack Schmitts and Lee Silvers of the world (…or, worlds), this challenge sets forth the task of demonstrating a robot that can retrieve geologic samples from a wide, varied terrain without human interference.
Both prizes have a purse of $1.5 million, with the third Nano-Satellite prize having a purse of $2 million.