The NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium is proud to announce its support of five teams from Florida universities that are competing in the Third Annual Lunabotics Mining Competition. The competition will be held at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex May 21-26, 2012. This nearly week-long event is designed to promote and retain student interest in fields relating to Science, technology, Engineering and Math, more commonly known as “STEM” fields. The challenge is for students to design and build an excavator, called a Lunabot, which can mine and deposit a minimum of 10 kilograms of lunar simulant called BP-1 within 10 minutes.
The first team that the NASA FSGC is assisting during this competition is Florida International University. The team from FIU has dubbed their “Lunabot” Pantera – its primary goal is to achieve an average mining rate of 15.8 kg of simulant per minute or greater. If the team’s entry can accomplish this it will surpass the average accomplished by last year’s winner. Pantera will also observe realistic standards of design in order to better handle actual conditions found on the lunar surface. The FIU team accomplished this by breaking the lunabot down into five primary systems and then these individual subsystems were thoroughly researched and high-quality components were selected to produce the system’s required elements.
The University of Florida team is concentrating on producing a lunabot that can easily traverse the simulated lunar regolith used in the competition. Similar in composition to the actual thing, this material has stymied its fair share of previous contestants. With potential mobility issues resolved, the UF lunabot will then seek to mine the pseudo lunar regolith as quickly and efficiently as possible. The UF team’s entry will employ a conveyor belt to move the BP-1 out of the way as soon as it is collected it will then be stored in a self-contained housing unit. Designed to be as light as possible, the robot will also be capable of autonomous navigation.
The NASA FSGC will be supporting three other teams from Florida, they are; the University of Miami, Florida State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. There are 44 teams competing in this year’s Lunabotics Competition. Of those, seven originate from Florida.
It is hoped that NASA will benefit from the Lunabotics contest by encouraging the development of innovative lunar excavation concepts from the universities competing. The complexities of the challenge include the abrasive characteristics of the BP-1, the weight and size limitations of the Lunabot, and the ability to autonomously control the Lunabot from a mission control center.
This year the scoring for the mining category will not be based primarily on the amount of material excavated in the allowed time but instead will require teams to consider a number of design and operation factors such as dust tolerance and projection, communications, vehicle mass, energy/power required, and level of autonomy.
Jason Rhian – Media Coordinator
About the NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium:
The Florida Space Grant Consortium is a statewide network of colleges and universities supporting the expansion and diversification of Florida’s space industry through grants, scholarships, and fellowships to students and education. Established in 1989, the NASA FSGC has 20 Affiliates Statewide comprising of 17 Universities & Colleges, the Astronaut Memorial Foundation, Space Florida, KSC, and the Orlando Science Center.