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NASA wants your miniature science payload designs for Moon rovers

Mariella Moon
Associate Editor
NASA

NASA says it could send tiny rovers to the Moon one day in addition to its water ice-hunting VIPER robot that’s scheduled for launch in 2022. Before the agency can do so, though, it has to develop tiny scientific payloads for its tiny rovers — and it needs your help to make that happen. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has launched a crowdsourcing project on HeroX aptly entitled “Honey, I Shrunk the NASA Payload.” In particular, it’s seeking instrument designs that can provide support for sustained human presence on the Moon and can help us use the resources we find on it.

The instrument ideas must be similar in size to a bar of soap. They must weigh no more than 0.8 pounds and must have max dimensions of 3.9 inches by 3.9 inches by 1.9 inches. These smaller payloads won’t just be more affordable than their bigger counterparts, they’ll also require less energy. JPL technologist Sabah Bux explained:

“Smaller payloads are game changing. They will allow us to develop technologies to do more prospecting and science on smaller, more mobile platforms.”

NASA will give out $160,000 in prizes across several categories and will accept submissions until June 1st. After this competition’s done, the agency expects to run new ones to prototype, test and finally deliver the tiny payloads. The hope is to develop a series of miniaturized instruments and sensors that can be used for lunar exploration in the near future.