NASA wants your ideas to reuse garbage and waste on a mission to Mars

NASA has just opened a challenge looking for ways to go to Mars and back with a minimum of wasted materials.

The agency’s tournament lab, along with crowdsourcing platform HeroX, launched a “Waste to Base” challenge for ideas to recycle trash, waste, carbon dioxide, and foam packaging materials during a Red Planet crewed mission from two to three years.

Competitors have until March 15 to enter the challenge, and multiple prizes of up to $1,000 each will be awarded for novel ideas, out of a total prize pool of $24,000. The winner must be announced by April 22, according to the challenge’s website.

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“This challenge is all about finding ways to turn waste into base materials and other useful things, like propellant or raw material for 3D printing,” the website said.

“The challenge is to seek their ideas on how to turn different waste streams into propellants and into useful materials, which can then be turned into needed things and recycled multiple times. While a perfectly efficient cycle is unlikely, the ideal solutions will result in little or no waste.

Full eligibility requirements are available on the contest website; Generally speaking, anyone in the world aged 18 and over can participate individually or as a team, as long as their jurisdiction is not subject to US federal sanctions, HeroX said.

An artist's conception of an astronaut on Mars.

An artist’s conception of an astronaut on Mars. (Image credit: dottedhippo via Getty Images)

The winning ideas are expected to be included in a white paper as “part of the roadmap for future technology development work” for NASA’s logistics reduction project, which is working on things like new spacecraft and settlements. futures, noted the description of the challenge.

While NASA has not yet set a firm timeline for landing humans on Mars, the agency has speculated in recent years that it could get there in the mid-2030s. In the short term, the agency hopes to get Artemis astronauts to the moon in the mid-2020s. Moon missions may help inform the design of future Mars missions.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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