UncategorizedNASA’s BIG Idea Challenge for the Next Generation

September 15, 2020by Jessica Awesome0

NASA Seeks Students to Help Get the Moon People-Ready

Becoming an astronaut takes many years of education and training – but that doesn’t mean you can’t work with NASA. Starting last July, undergrad and graduate students at select schools could submit their big ideas for innovating future space missions.

Getting involved with these programs is a perfect step in the right direction if you see your future career in science. It’s the perfect way to build your resume and explore different fields before you enter the workforce.

2021 BIG Idea Challenge

The BIG Idea Challenge is a NASA sponsored event that seeks to help the bright students of today help solve the problems of tomorrow. The BIG Idea Challenge is looking for Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing solutions. NASA recognizes the potential that aspiring scientists have and welcome their out-of-the-box thinking.

In addition to the satisfaction and prestige that comes with winning such a competition, top teams can win anywhere between $50k to $180k in prize money to bring their projects to life!

How do you get your big break with NASA this year? The current project asks participants to design unique and original technologies that are dust resistant. The aim is to investigate future tech for lunar applications near the south pole where lunar dust poses a significant problem.


Why is lunar dust so problematic?

Lunar dust is one of the main issues of any moon-related mission. The problem is that this fine dust is difficult to get rid of and is found practically everywhere on the surface of the moon.

Try to think of it like sand at the beach. No matter how hard you try, a lot of us find ourselves shaking sand out of our towels and shoes for the rest of the week. Lunar dust getting stuck to spacesuits poses a bigger problem than an annoyance.

Lunar dust is coarse, electrically charged, and incredibly small. It poses a health problem to astronauts who accidentally breathe it in or rub it in their eyes. It can also lead to a whole lot of technical problems.

When dust gets into technical instruments – it can cause a lot of chaos. The fine, hard-to-remove dust can physically damage the equipment or negatively impact their performance. Even when the tech is in working order – dust can skew results or make it impossible to get any readings.

Ideal technologies will mitigate the impact of lunar dust or repel it all together. The proposal regulations for the challenge are rather open-ended, leaving a lot of opportunity for creativity. All we know for sure is we look forward to seeing which amazing contestants are selected for funding at the end of the challenge!


Is this the first time NASA is enlisting the help of students?

NASA supports many programs and events promoting student engagement. The organization is known for its STEM programs and student opportunities.

Illustration of power, lighting and roving concepts operating in a lunar crater.
Credits: NASA

Just last year, NASA sponsored another BIG Idea Challenge asking students nationwide to help design technology that can help explore the darker regions of the moon, which are permanently shadowed. The winning teams have already received funding money to start building their inventions.

Their opportunities are not strictly limited to courses and competitions. NASA also offers internship opportunities to ambitious students and graduates worldwide. Remember – it’s never too early to get excited about science.


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