MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. — Nineteen teams pushed their robot competitors
to the limit, and three teams claimed a total of $750,000 in NASA
prizes at this year’s Regolith Excavation Challenge on Oct. 18. This
is the first time in the competition’s three-year history that any
team qualified for a cash prize, the largest NASA has awarded to
After two days of intense competition hosted at NASA’s Ames Research
Center at Moffett Field, Calif., organizers conferred first place
prize of $500,000 to Paul’s Robotics of Worcester, Mass. Terra
Engineering of Gardena, Calif., was a three-time returning competitor
and was awarded second place prize of $150,000, and Team Braundo of
Rancho Palos Verde, Calif., took the third place of $100,000 as a
Competitors were required to use mobile, robotic digging machines
capable of excavating at least 330 pounds of simulated moon dirt,
known as regolith, and depositing it into a container in 30 minutes
or less. The rules required the remotely controlled vehicles to
contain their own power sources and weigh no more than 176 pounds.
The winning excavator lifted 1,103 pounds within the allotted time.
Runners-up excavated 595 pounds and 580 pounds, respectively. Team
E-REX of Little Rock, Ark., earned a special mention for transferring
the most regolith in a single deposit — 165 pounds.
“It’s really encouraging that we saw three teams achieve the minimum
requirements and shows that innovation is not only alive but
growing,” said Lynn Baroff, executive director of the California
Space Education and Workforce Institute, who lead the panel of
judges. “It’s really great that through this competition NASA is
actively seeking to recognize citizen inventors from across the
nation whose ideas may one day contribute to space exploration.”
Regolith is difficult to dig because its dust particles want to stick
together. Judges recognized the winning teams achieved real technical
accomplishments because the whole robotic system has to be sturdy
enough to scoop moon dirt and powerful enough to move through the
dust while still meeting the weight requirements.
“This was an incredibly tough competition, and teams came up with
fantastic ideas, some of which might find use in future missions to
the moon,” said Greg Schmidt, deputy director of the NASA Lunar
Science Institute at Ames. “It’s great to have a winner this year.
The biggest win is getting so many talented young people involved in
NASA’s mission of exploration.”
“After three years, it’s great to have three cash prize winners,” said
Andrea Seastrand, executive director at California Space Authority
Inc. of Santa Maria. “Two of the winning teams were returning
competitors and have learned through this challenge that there is no
such thing as failure. It’s great to see them rewarded for their
determination, innovation and creativity.”
The Centennial Challenges program in NASA’s Innovative Partnerships
Program Office sponsors the Regolith Excavation Challenge. The
competition was co-hosted by the California Space Education and
Workforce Institute and its sister organization the California Space
Authority, in collaboration with the NASA Lunar Science Institute.
Diani Building Corp. of Santa Maria, Calif., and Empirical Systems
Aerospace, Pismo Beach, Calif., also supported the competition.
To watch videos, view images and get more information about the
Regolith Excavation Challenge, visit:
For more information about NASA’s Centennial Challenges, visit:
For more information about NASA and its programs, visit:
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
California Space Authority, Santa Maria, Calif.