Ten teams from different universities will participate in the NASA’s annual Mars Ice Challenge. The objective of the contest is for the teams to design, build, and test prototype systems that would extract water from simulated Martian subsurface ice.
After almost 15 years of observation, scientists confirmed signs of water on the Red Planet. The water is most likely coming from a steep, relatively warm slopes on the Martian surface. The recurring slope lines were first identified in 2011 by a High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) Camera.
Scientists already inferred previously that water reserves are found underground in Mars. In 2002, the NASA Odyssey mission scanned the planet from orbit and detected signs of shallow ground ice at high latitudes. Then in 2008, the NASA Phoenix mission dug up water ice at its landing site near the Martian Pole.
Daniel McGann, one of the team’s leaders, said that extracting clean, usable water from Mars is the goal of the challenge. He added that their strategy includes drilling only a few holes as possible and expand their reach once they hit the ice part.
The teams must submit a technical paper regarding their innovations and design, and a professional poster to show their “path of flight” and how they will modify their equipment for Martian environment. Last year’s winner is West Virginia University’s Team MIDAS. They used specific equipment in melting the ice and used it in extracting the water.
They will travel to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia over the summer for the challenge to compete using their prototypes. Before the competition, the selected teams were each given $10,000 to use for developing their hardware, buying materials, traveling to Langley and other purposes related to the contest.
Awards such as First Place Overall, Clearest Water, Lightest System Mass, Most Water Collected, and Best Technical Paper will be given out at the end of the competition. The top-performing teams may also be chosen to present their designs at a NASA-chosen event.