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David E. Steitz/Stephanie Schierholz
Headquarters, Washington

William Simon
California Space Authority, Santa Maria, Calif.

May 3, 2007
NASA's Centennial Challenge to Excavate Moon Dirt Set for May 12
WASHINGTON - On Saturday, May 12, teams from around the nation will compete for a total of $250,000 from NASA for an autonomously operating system to excavate simulated "lunar regolith," or the moon's soil. The Regolith Excavation Challenge, one of NASA's seven Centennial Challenges, will take place at the Santa Maria Fairpark, Santa Maria, Calif. The competition on May 12 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. PDT is free and open to media and the public.

NASA is offering $250,000 to the team whose system can excavate and deliver as much regolith as possible in 30 minutes. Competitors' machines must use less than 30 W of power, weigh less than 40 kg and excavate more than 150 kg of the simulated moon dirt. The unique physical properties of lunar regolith make excavation a difficult technical challenge, but it is a necessary first step toward uncovering the moon's resources.

Teams from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., Livermore, Calif., Berkeley, Calif., Fulks Run, Va., Rolla, Mo., Berkley, Mich., Milwaukee, and Vancouver, British Columbia, have registered to participate in the challenge.

The California Space Education and Workforce Institute, an organization of the California Space Authority, Santa Maria, is administering the challenge at no cost to NASA.

The California RoboChallenge for students in kindergarten through 12th grade also will take place at the fairpark, in coordination with the Regolith Excavation Challenge. The RoboChallenge runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 12 and features speakers Air Force Col. Stephen Tanous, 30th Space Wing, and Director of NASA's Ames Research Center, S. Pete Worden.

For more information about the Regolith Excavation Challenge, visit:

Centennial Challenges, an element of NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program, promotes technical innovation through prize competitions to make revolutionary advances to support the Vision for Space Exploration and NASA goals. For more information about the Innovative Partnerships Program and Centennial Challenges, visit:

For more information about NASA and other agency programs, visit:

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