NASA have opened a public challenge to develop an obstacle avoidance sensor for a possible future Venus rover.
The “Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover” challenge is seeking the public’s designs for a sensor that could be incorporated into the design concept.
“Earth and Venus are basically sibling planets, but Venus took a turn at one point and became inhospitable to life as we know it,” said Jonathan Sauder, a senior mechatronics engineer at JPL and principal investigator for the Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE) concept. “By getting on the ground and exploring Venus, we can understand what caused Earth and Venus to diverge on wildly different paths and can explore a foreign world right in our own backyard.”
The rover is intended to spend months on the planets surface, collecting valuable, long-term data. This will require a sensor to identify obstacles in its path. But this sensor can’t rely on electronic systems, as they would fail in the heat on Venus.
Participants stand a chance to win a first-place prize of $15,000 (around R230,000). Second place wins $10,000 (around R150,000) and third place, $5,000 (around R78,000). JPL is working with the NASA Tournament Lab to execute the challenge on the heroX crowdsourcing platform.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the public to design a component that could one day end up on another celestial body,” said Ryon Stewart, challenge coordinator for the NASA Tournament Lab at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “NASA recognizes that good ideas can come from anywhere and that prize competitions are a great way to engage the public’s interest and ingenuity and make space exploration possible for everyone.”
Submissions will be accepted through May 29, 2020.
“When faced with navigating one of the most challenging terrestrial environments in the solar system, we need to think outside the box,” Sauder said. “That is why we need the creativity of makers and garage inventors to help solve this challenge.”
For more information about the challenge and how to enter find out here.