ELO2 and Freelancer.com reveal designs for Australia’s first lunar excavator

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Australian freelancing marketplace Freelancer.com and space consortium ELO2 announced the phase one winners of the ELO2 Big Dipper Lunar Regolith Acquisition Challenge.

The Australian Space Agency, in collaboration with NASA’s Artemis program, is embarking on an ambitious journey to design Australia’s first lunar rover.

Announced in October 2023, the ELO2 Big Dipper Lunar Regolith Acquisition Challenge is an open invitation for innovators and enthusiasts to be a part of this groundbreaking mission.

Hosted by Freelancer.com, the challenge revolves around the design of a Regolith Sample Acquisition Device, a crucial component of the lunar rover.

This device will be responsible for collecting lunar soil samples (regolith) and transporting them to an In-situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) facility managed by NASA.

The overarching goal is to extract oxygen from the lunar regolith, paving the way for sustained human presence and exploration on the Moon and beyond.

As Phase 1 concluded, the project team engaged diverse groups across Australia to participate in putting the winning solutions to the test.

These workshops aimed to gather crucial data and feedback, laying the foundation for Phase 2.

Now in Phase 2, participants will leverage insights gleaned from the winning designs to craft a comprehensive set of tangible design recommendations for future lunar rover implementations.

“We are impressed with the number and quality of submissions we received in Phase 1,” said Joseph Kenrick, ELO2 technical director.

He continued, “The different perspectives and insights from the teams are helping inform our own designs for the regolith acquisition device. We can’t wait to see what comes out of Phase 2!”

“We’re excited to be part of history in helping ELO2 design a regolith collector for Australia’s first lunar rover. We look forward to seeing how these ideas come to life in Phase 2 and are adopted in the final lunar rover design,” said Trisha Epp, Program Manager at Freelancer.com.

Trisha Epp, the program manager at Freelancer.com, expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to contribute to history by assisting ELO2 in designing a regolith collector for Australia’s inaugural lunar rover.

“Phase 1 winners demonstrated creative ingenuity and innovative thinking in addressing the unique challenge brief. They’re a real showcase of how open innovation challenges can help crowdsource new ideas.”

In Phase 2 of the challenge, participants are tasked with creating a concise 1-page infographic containing insights and design recommendations applicable to any future regolith acquisition device.

They are expected to draw upon the lessons learned from the winning solutions of Phase 1, as well as broader research available to develop a comprehensive set of recommendations.

These recommendations may cover aspects such as the device’s ability to withstand lunar conditions, its operational lifespan, and energy efficiency.

Phase 2 is open to all participants, regardless of their involvement or success in Phase 1. Winners of Phase 2 will have the opportunity to share a prize pool totalling $3,000.

The schedule for Phase 2 spans from the challenge launch on 29 January 2024, to the announcement of winners on 1 April 2024.

Specific rules apply to participation, with eligibility restricted to Australian residents or citizens, or teams led by an Australian citizen residing in Australia at the time of submission.

All submissions must originate or have undergone significant transformation in Australia and must be in English, with all communication related to the challenge conducted in the same language.