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RASC-AL: Mars Ice Challenge

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Project Summary

Status: Archive

As a special edition of the Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkages (RASC-AL) program, the Mars Ice Challenge provides university engineering students an opportunity to design, build, and test a prototype for retrieving water from simulated Martian subsurface ice.

University teams submit proposals, and up to ten teams are invited as finalists to visit Langley Research Center for the final competition. Stipends are provided for the finalist teams to build and test their designs in a two-day competition to see who can extract the most water and the clearest water. Teams also submit a poster and a technical paper detailing the path-to-flight from Earth prototype to Mars-ready system.

The simulated Martian subsurface ice stations are composed of clay and rock covering solid blocks of ice. Though the drills are built and operated under Earth conditions, the technology should be designed for use on Mars and adapted for competition. To simulate realistic conditions under which the system will have to operate, one day of competition is dedicated to autonomous operation of the drill.

As NASA looks toward the next steps in human space exploration, this competition provides an opportunity to consider how a water-rich environment on Mars could support a sustained human presence, and how best to access that water.

2018 Awards

First Place: Northeastern University – Northeastern University Planetary Articulating Water Extraction System (NUPAWES)

Second Place: West Virginia University – Development of the Second Generation Mountaineer Ice Drilling Automated System (MIDAS II)

Clearest Water: West Virginia University

Best Technical Paper (Tie): Massachusetts Institute of Technology – High Yield Dihydrogen-monoxide Retrieval Assembly (HYDRA)

Best Technical Paper (Tie): Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University – Virginia Tech Ice Extractor (V-TIE)

Lightest System Mass: Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University – Virginia Tech Ice Extractor (V-TIE)



Northeastern University's drill retrieves water from simulated Martian soil.Northeastern University’s drill retrieves water from simulated Martian soil.