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Regolith Excavation Challenge Update

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
October 17, 2009
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The competition has broken for dinner here at Moffett Field. The results thus far:

Braundo Rancho: 263.75 kilograms – Palo Verdes, California
Technology Ranch – 26.45 kilograms – Arroyo Grande, California
Laurentian Rock: .4 kilograms – Glendale, California
Auric Design – 0 kilograms – Orlando, Florida
Lunar Arc – 0 kilograms – Irvine, California
Next Step Robotics – 0 kilograms – Houston, TX
Top Hat Robotics West – 0 kilograms – Lafayette, Indiana
C2 Robotics – 0 kilograms – San Luis Obispo, California
Moon Diggers A & Moon Diggers B – Disqualified – San Francisco, California

(Update: Judges reversed their decision to disqualify Moon Diggers B. It will be the last team in the competition on Sunday.)

Braundo Rancho is the first team to qualify for the $750,000 prize, which is being funded under NASA’s Centennial Challenges program. A robot is required to pick up at least 150 kilograms of simulated lunar soil within 30 minutes from a test bed 4 meters square. The top 3 teams to achieve this task will received cash prizes of $500,000, $150,000 and $100,000.

Technology Ranch’s excavator worked rather well. However, its cameras went out and the team was required to navigator by dead reckoning. Although the robot managed to pick up a great deal of regolith, it kept missing the box that it was supposed to deposit the soil in. A lot of it ended up on the ground.

The C-2 Robotics excavator going moving but almost immediately ran over a rock and got stuck. It didn’t go much further than about five feet.