Suggested Searches

3 min read

VERY Cool Ideas Only: Help NASA Return Frozen Moon Samples

Lunar Deep Freeze Challenge
VERY Cool Ideas Only: Help NASA Return Frozen Moon Samples

When the first woman and next man land on the Moon in 2024, they will explore the permanently shadowed and extremely cold regions of the Moon’s South Pole. Astronauts on Artemis missions will have to contain samples and carry them in multiple spacecraft during transport back to Earth. To aid in the effort, the NASA Lunar Deep Freeze Challenge, led by the NASA Tournament Lab, is seeking input on how to return cold samples collected in these regions where temperatures are less than -238°F (-150°C), while preserving them in their original, frozen state back to Earth for further analysis.

Samples from the lunar South Pole have significant scientific and technological value, and may provide key insights that benefit future lunar missions. The challenge asks for novel solutions to deliver or enable long-term cryogenic containment through a small, lightweight, and efficient approach.

“The analysis of these ultra-cold lunar samples will enable a new generation of scientists and curators to refine their techniques and help us prepare for future missions to the Moon and beyond, while unlocking scientific secrets about the evolution of the Earth, Moon and Solar System. We rely on the global community of innovators to provide valuable ideas to address the challenge of keeping those samples cold and transporting them back to Earth,” said Chad Hammons, manager for the Lunar Deep Freeze Challenge out of Gateway Operations Integration and Utilization office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

While a universal single-system cryogenic solution that could be transported in the Human Landing System, at the Gateway lunar outpost, in Orion, and aboard ground-based recovery vehicles is ideal, all innovative approaches, processes, and systems that can deliver a solution to this challenge are of significant interest. The expected minimum time from collection on the Moon to splashdown on Earth is about two weeks. Therefore, NASA is looking for a cold stowage system that will maintain cryogenic temperatures for at least that long.

Submissions will be evaluated in two categories: small transportable cryogenic containment systems; and innovations for long-term cryogenic stowage and transportation. A total prize pool of up to $40,000 will be awarded to the challenge winners, with $20,000 allocated for each challenge category. Participants have until November 12, 2020 to submit their ideas.

For more information about the challenge and how to enter, visit:

NASA’s Artemis program includes sending a suite of new science instruments and technology demonstrations to study the Moon, landing the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2024, and establishing a sustained presence by the end of the decade. The agency will leverage its Artemis experience and technologies to prepare for the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.

The NASA Tournament Lab is part of NASA’s Prizes and Challenges program within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. The program supports the use of public competitions and crowdsourcing as tools to advance NASA research and development and other mission needs.

Learn more about opportunities to participate in your space program: