NASA Waste To Base Challenge Puts Up $24K In Prizes To Invent A Space Recycling System

nasa herox waste competition
One of the many challenges human beings will face if they colonize Mars will be the question of what to do with waste. This will particularly be an issue on the trip to the Red Planet. NASA and HeroX are hosting the Waste to Base Challenge in which competitors submit their ideas on the best ways to recycle, reprocess, or repurpose waste in space. Winning submissions can receive up to $1,000 and there will be twenty-four winners in total. 

NASA is specifically "looking for your ideas for how to convert different waste streams into useful materials that can then be made into needed things and cycled through multiple times—and we are looking for ideas to convert waste into propellant." It recognizes that a "completely efficient system" is improbable but want to jettison into space as little waste as possible. They are accepting submissions in four categories total—trash, fecal waste, foam packaging material, and carbon dioxide processing.

NASA is not seeking out brand new, fully-fleshed out systems. It expects that most submissions will "contain early stage ideas, or modifications of existing technologies." NASA also notes that winning proposals will contain ideas that can ideally be implemented within five years and minimize mass and volume.

nasa herox waste competition cycle
The competition is open to all adult individuals and teams from any country as long as that country is not prohibited from participating due to US federal sanctions. Submissions must be submitted in English on the HeroX platform and participants must agree to the Challenge-Specific Agreement. Participants can submit multiple entries as long as the entries are substantially different from one another. It is interesting to note that one does not need to be an expert in a STEM field to participate and that "prize organizers encourage outside individuals and non-expert teams to compete and propose new solutions."

According to the website, there are already 27 teams and 368 individual "innovators." This will likely be a fierce competition, but the website encourages collaboration. There is a forum page where people can ask questions about the competition itself, brainstorm ideas, and ask others for feedback.

The competition is open now and participants can submit their ideas until March 15th, 2022 at 5pm ET. The judging will take place between March 15th and April 19th and winners will be announced on April 26th. At least two and up to fourteen prizes will be awarded in each category, with twenty awards all together. There will additionally be four "best in class awards" which are aimed at recognizing "inventive and creative approaches that don’t necessarily fit into a specific waste category but nonetheless hold great potential for overall waste management." Each winning idea will receive $1,000 and participants can win multiple awards.

Images courtesy of NASA and HeroX
Tags:  space, NASA, mars, herox