NASA Opens Student Competition to Design Space

This contest is for undergraduate and graduate space enthusiasts.

Aug 5, 2021


NASA, Space, Education
NASA Opens Student Competition to Design Space | This contest is for undergraduate and graduate space enthusiasts.

Attention all STEM university students. NASA is looking for undergraduate and graduate students for the 2022 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) competition that will help humanity reach for the stars.

The competition, according to a NASA press release, challenges STEM students to do coursework about the space agency's objectives and at 20, one of the longest running competitions. In celebration of this special anniversary, the teams will be asked to build a prototype of their proposals.

“We are excited [to] bring the prototyping component into the competition,” Pat Troutman, human exploration strategic analysis lead at NASA’s Langley Research Center, in Hampton, Virginia said in the press release. “The themes support the future of space exploration at NASA, helping to fill capability gaps to get humans back to the Moon sustainably under the Artemis program, and then to Mars.

“Students are going to bring some excellent ideas to the table for us to consider and see with our own eyes through these prototypes. This will be a fun competition.”

There are also programs for high school students, including HUNCH (High School Students United With NASA), that for 18 years has had students designing and building equipment for the International Space Station.

The themes for 2022 address applications to support people's ability to thrive on the Moon, Mars, and beyond They include: a Portable Utility Pallet, Universal Sample Containment System, Mars Water-Based ISRU Architecture, and a SuitPort Logistics Carrier (SPC).

You can see the competition details on the RASC-Al website. Student teams and their faculty advisers must submit a Notice of Intent by October 14, 2021, and also submit proposals and videos by March 1, 2022.

Up to 15 teams will be chosen to advance to the final stage of the prestigious competition and to present their concepts and prototypes to a panel of judges from NASA, and private industry leaders in June 2022 at the  RASC-AL forum that will be held in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

The 2021 RASC-AL competition was won by a team from the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez who presented their plan for Discovery and Endeavour – Ceres Interplanetary Pathway for Human Exploration and Research (DECIPHER) according to a undefined. A team from the University of Texas at Austin took second place.

While the competition was originally planned to take place in Cocoa Beach, it was changed to a virtual event due to the pandemic with teams sharing their projects in videos and they answered questions on an online livestream. A record number of teams submitted proposals and there has been a renewed interest in space exploration.

There is even more interest in space due to the NASA Mars mission that landed the rover Perseverance in February 2021 and the flight of the tiny Ingenuity helicopter.

NASA is also headed back to the Moon and plans to land the first woman on the lunar surface in 2024. All of these exciting projects may lead to an even larger number of applicants for this year's competition. Who knows, these university students may someday see first-hand in space how their projects work.

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Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.