Regolith Excavation Challenge Completes Day 1

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CALIFORNIA SPACE AUTHORITY PRESS RELEASE

Tension remains high as teams competing in the 2009 Regolith Excavation Challenge await the final round tomorrow. By the end of today’s activities, half of the 20 teams scheduled to compete had completed their turn in the simulated moon dirt, or regolith. The competition will continue tomorrow.

To win the challenge a robot must quarry at least 330 pounds of regolith and deposit it into a container within 30 minutes. The tele-operated vehicles must contain their own power sources while maintaining a weight limit on their hardware of no more than approximately 176 pounds.

“Team members are feeling the stress of this contest,” stated Lynn Baroff, Executive Director of the California Space Education and Workforce Institute (CSEWI) and the Lead Judge of the contest. “With no wind or water erosion on moon’s surface, terra granules never become smooth and separated like sand or dust does on Earth. Similar to the real thing on the moon, the properties of the synthetic lunar surface make it very difficult to mine.”

As teams made their attempts in the regolith test bed, audience members cheered when the remote controlled machines scooped and they sighed when a component malfunctioned or an apparatus failed to maneuver. Thus far, only one team has met the minimum standards to claim victory, but others could eclipse them in the showdown tomorrow. Winners will be announced with the consent of a panel of judges after tomorrow’s competition wraps up. A purse of $750,000 is at stake.

Remaining teams will resume the tournament at 7:30 am on Sunday, October 18 at NASA Ames Research Park located on Moffett Field. Admission is free and the public is welcome to attend, speak with the team contestants and view the innovative remote controlled shovels.

Co-hosting the 2009 Regolith Excavation Challenge with CSEWI is the California Space Authority (CSA), in collaboration with the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI). Diani Building Corporation and Empirical Systems Aerospace are also supporting the competition.

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