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NASA offers 5,000 prize for inventive ways to unload cargo from lunar rovers, spacecraft

NASA has set aside a prize purse of $25,000, to be shared with up to six winning participants. Is that you?

Astronaut James Irwin beside the Rover parked near the lunar module, looking northeast, Mount Hadley in the background. (AP Photo)

NASA wants to put humans back on the moon.

There’s one potential snag: The agency isn’t sure how it will unload the supplies astronauts will need to build their base camp and conduct scientific experiments there.

Earth has plenty of systems to get cargo on and off vehicles. But they’re too bulky for the moon – and they weren’t designed to be shot into space or to be used in moon gravity, which is about six times weaker than that on Earth.

That’s where you come in.

NASA’s Lunar Delivery Challenge seeks innovative ways to unload goods from lunar rovers and other spacecraft. And it’s willing to pay for the ideas: The agency has set aside a prize purse of $25,000, to be shared with up to six winning participants.

Although the agency welcomes simple solutions, the conditions under which the payloads will be unloaded will be complex. They’ll be brought to the moon’s south pole on commercial landers of different sizes, and once they get to the moon’s surface, they’ll experience just 17 percent of Earth’s gravity.

The solutions have to be cost-effective and practical‚ and they should be flexible enough to allow for a variety of payloads.

Have any ideas? Hosted on the crowdsourcing social network HeroX, the challenge is open until Jan. 19.

For more details and to enter, visit bit.ly/LunarDelivery.

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