2020 Lunar PSR Challenge FAQs

BIG Idea program staff will respond to questions presented by eligible students and faculty from accredited colleges and universities in the United States


A Q&A Session was held for the 2020 BIG Idea Challenge on October 15th, 2019.

Please click on the buttons below to review files from the 2020 BIG Idea Q&A Session.

The 2020 BIG Idea Q&A Session is planned for Tuesday, October 15, 2019 from 3:00 - 4:30 PM EST.

Meeting number: 904 202 962
Meeting password: pHQPM3x?

Passcode: 294823#

Can't join the meeting?

Click the button below to submit questions for the 2020 BIG Idea Challenge Q&A Session.

Does the faculty advisor count towards the 20-person team limit for attending the forum?

No, faculty advisor does not count toward the 20-person team limit.

May a single faculty member advise multiple teams?

Yes, a single faculty member may advise multiple teams, though advise from diverse faculty may be beneficial to students.

Can a Civil Servant serve as a team advisor?

Civil Servants are not permitted. The team's primary advisor must be from a space grant affiliated school (the lead institution). Any additional advisors can be from academia or industry.

Who judges the competition?

The Challenge is judged by a subset of the Steering Committee, comprised of NASA and industry experts who will evaluate and score the competition between participating teams. You can view this year's challenge judges here.

Can multiple teams from the same university submit different proposals to compete in the BIG Idea challenge?

Yes, multiple teams from the same university can submit separate proposals, and multiple teams from the same university may move on to the next round of the competition if their proposals merit selection.

Can students from multiple universities form a BIG Idea team?

Yes, you can form multi-university teams for the BIG Idea Challenge! There are a few important factors regarding faculty advisers:

      One space grant-affiliated university will need to be the "lead" university on your project, and provide a faculty adviser for the team
      If your team is one of the finalists chosen to attend the forum, the faculty adviser from the lead institution would be responsible for handling the financial piece; we would send the development stipend to the “lead” university, and the faculty adviser would be in charge of distributing it and ensuring as many team members as possible could participate.
      A faculty adviser from one of the universities would also need to go to the forum with the team. However, the multi-university team would only require one adviser, not one for each university.
Is it possible to bring in additional team members, after the Proposal is accepted?

Yes, absolutely. We understand that sometimes things change between the time proposals were submitted and the time the written report is due. We just ask that you list every person who contributed to your project in the technical paper.

Is industry collaboration, either formally or informally, allowed?

Yes, industry collaboration is certainly acceptable! We encourage your team to utilize all of the resources you have at your disposal to submit a top-notch concept.

Can international students participate?

Because this is a NASA-sponsored competition, eligibility is limited to students from universities in the United States. Please see the Eligibility Requirements.

Foreign universities are not eligible to participate in the BIG Idea Challenge. However, up to 5 foreign students who are attending a U.S.-based university are eligible to participate with their team. It is important to note that BIG Idea Challenge Funding cannot be used to directly support any non-U.S. citizen.

Please note that due to prohibitive restrictions and ever-changing NASA security regulations, foreign nationals will not be able to attend the BIG Idea Forum if it is held onsite at a NASA Center. There will be no exceptions to this policy.

Can high school students participate in the challenge?

High school students are allowed to participate in the challenge as EXTRA members of the team (they do not count towards the minimum university team members), but students currently in high school at the time of the Forum will be unable to attend the on-site Forum at NASA if your team is selected as a finalist. They can and should be listed as extra team members on your proposal submission.

If a high school team member graduates in May 2020 and is attending college in the Fall at the time of the forum, they may be able to join your team at the Forum. The lead institution would be responsible for determining their travel plans.

We cannot support students under the age of 18 years old.

I attend a university outside of the United States. Can I compete in the BIG Idea Challenge?

Because this is a NASA-sponsored competition, eligibility is limited to students from universities in the United States. Please see the Eligibility Requirements.

Foreign universities are not eligible to participate in the BIG Idea Challenge.

I have a green card. Do I count as a U.S.-citizen for this challenge?

For the purposes of this challenge, green card holders do not count as US citizens.

When and where will this year's Forum be held?

Please see the Forum Information and Dates webpages for the most up-to-date information on Forum dates and location.

Do I have to cover the costs of participating in the BIG Idea Forum?

Each of the finalist teams will receive a monetary award to facilitate full participation in the Forum. Teams are responsible for making their own plans, including travel and lodging. Some meals may be included in the BIG Idea Challenge Forum registration fee. Visit the Forum Information webpage for more information.

Why does my advisor have to attend the Forum?

One Faculty Advisor is required to attend the Forum with each team, and is a condition for acceptance into the BIG Idea competition. Advisors can provide guidance and insight into the team's decisions, as well as acting as a primary contact point between the BIG Idea coordinators and the universities.

Teams who do not have a faculty advisor present at the BIG Idea Forum will be disqualified from competing and participation awards will be subject to return to NIA.

To what extent does production value of the video affect whether or not your team is selected to continue or is the value of your concepts for heavily weighted?

The production value of the video does not affect your score/evaluation at all. The video is simply a tool you can take advantage of to help augment or further explain your concepts to the judges. There are a wide variety of video examples under the Resources tab on the Competition Basics page from past finalists.

Does a table of contents count toward the total page count?

A table of contents is not needed, but if you choose to include one, it will not count towards the total page count.

Are there any conflicts if we submit elements of our BIG Idea research paper to an AIAA conference?

No, there are no conflicts with submitting your concept and any analysis work to any conference.

When we are in contact with the CLPS, we noticed there was a 70kbps per kg max limit. This means if we have a 15kg rover, then we get 1,050kbps max?

This is a correct way to interpret the comm rate constraints for this challenge. The total bandwidth is shared among the lander itself and the different payloads. In general this is the minimum expected and bandwidth will also be based on priority and criticality. However, feel free to state your comm requirements if they differ, but make sure you can justify an additional comms needs. Be aware that comms are a finite resource on the moon.

For design considerations, can we assume that the edge of the crater will be within a line of sight of the lander? Would a rover in the crater be able to see a lander on the rim?

We can probably say yes. Most craters have an elevated rim that should be within LOS from a lander situated about 100m away. In the worst case scenario it would be reasonable to assume a relay (i.e. repeater) placed on the rim for experiments inside the crater would have LOS to the lander.

Are we also assuming the lander will always have some sort of sunlight at the poles, or do we need to account for lunar night conditions at all?

Based on some assessments there are no areas with permanent sunlight and these are on high ridges and peaks. However during the right lunar season the lander should have long periods when solar power is available. You should assume the lander can operate for a full lunar day (~8 Earth Days) however it is likely that this will be longer if it lands where the sun is LOS for longer periods.

For the rover technology, can we consider things with a TRL 6 for the ground, or does it have to be a TRL 6 in a space environment since we're going to the moon? Can we do ground testing in an environment that simulates the environment of the moon, and will that satisfy the TRL 6 condition?

It is encouraged that the components that make up the system are all at TRL 6. The system does not need to be TRL 6 but a credible test plan to get it to TRL 6 should be part of the proposal. For TRL 6 the technology must be tested in a relevant environment. The expected environments would be simulated on the ground where possible. Things like partial gravity are very hard to test and are typically done through analysis. The lunar environment at the poles would require a thermal vacuum chamber. Since radiation testing is typically done at the component testing the system can be assessed at a TRL of 6 via analysis for radiation tolerance. If a mobility system is planned it would be hard to test due to the uncertainty of the lunar regolith at the poles.

Is there a plan for which specific PSRs will be explored? Is there a defined size to the regions?

At this time, the judges are unaware of any plans to explore a specific crater. Given your limitations in mass, the exploration area covered inside the crater would likely be pretty limited.

The judges encourage teams to research the latest publicly posted papers and reference them for their assumptions.

Do you have any suggestions to successfully operate COTS electronic devices (such as Raspberry Pi, SD card, etc.) in extreme temperatures (e.g., -40 degrees in Celsius or below ~ +60 degrees in Celsius or higher), when those devices are not officially rated for such a wide temperature range?

When COTS components are not rated for the expected environments then they need to undergo environmental testing.

After environmental testing is complete the team may have to develop a thermal management system to maintain temperatures within an acceptable range or they may choose to look for more robust components.

Many COTS parts have space grade equivalents.

If we are working to design for category two; collecting, purifying and storing water should we assume the teams that are working to characterize the surface will determine the landing location for the lander? Or would we propose a crater and hope it has high amounts of hydrogen and water ice?

If you are working on a payload that demonstrates collecting, purifying and storing water then it is reasonable to assume the lander will be sent to an optimal location to do this. You do not need to identify a specific crater. You should specify the required constraints for your payload. The mission planers will be expected to try to meet all of the mission constraints and land in a location with acceptable risks. Determine what your system of interest is and specify a reasonable interface to the external/enabling systems.

Will we know the direction and distance of the crater once the lander has landed?

Yes. The lander operations team will have a pretty good situational awareness and this will improve over time as imagery is compared to known features. These parameters can be obtained from the lander’s data packets or uploaded directly in a command to your payload.

For "Technologies to support lunar in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) in a PSR," are we allowed to plan to remotely control a rover such as what was done on previous Mars Rover Missions? Or are we expected to automate the rover so that it does not need to be remotely driven?

It is up to you if you’d like to propose a remotely controlled or automated rover based on your capabilities/resources. Both options are acceptable.

When are the Letters of Support due? When is the W9/Vendor Form due?

The BIG Idea Letter of Support and the W9 are both due on the proposal due date. There will be a place to upload those documents on the proposal submission form. (Template letter of support and W9 forms can be found on the Resources section here)

Do we need a W9, University Letter of Support, or Space Grant Letter of Support from a partnering university?

The required forms for the BIG Idea Challenge Proposal Package should only be filled out by and submitted from the Lead Institution.

Partnering universities are not required to fill out the W9 or have a letter from their Space Grant. However, you will need to include a Letter of Support from the partnering university, indicating they are aware of and support the partnership.

Can my team use copyrighted music or photos in our presentation?

It is the responsibility of each team to appropriately handle copyright issues related to anything you choose to use in your presentation (including, but not limited to: music, images, graphics, and photos). Neither NASA nor NIA can grant permission for you to use copyrighted material.