NAsa has asked US universities to propose new technologies that would help the space agency conduct permanent exploration of the moon. Successful applicants will have the opportunity to rapidly develop technology from newly inaugurated lunar surface technology research (Lustr) to $ 2m (£ 1.5m) in two key areas: finding and extracting water from lunar “soil” or regoliths, and developing Power systems that will maintain technology through long lunar nights.
Both are necessary for astronauts to stay on the moon for a long time. Water is essential for life support and can be divided into hydrogen and oxygen for use as rocket fuel. Each lunar night is equivalent to 14 Earths and will therefore require reliable batteries with power distribution and control systems, which can work well in the harsh radiation environment of the Moon. Such power systems would also be needed to drain water, most of which are believed to exist in permanently shaded craters near the Moon’s South Pole.
Although the first human landings are scheduled for 2024, it will be only a short stay. Permanent lunar exploration is not expected to begin until 2028. Lance applications must be received by 12 August.