Jump to Challenge category #1 submission criteria • Jump to Challenge category #2 submission criteria

What is the goal of the Lunar Deep Freeze Challenge?

The objective of this Challenge is to conceptualize and describe a novel approach to cryogenic containment that will allow lunar sample transport from the Moon to Earth. NASA is open to any and all innovative approaches that can deliver or enable long-term cryogenic storage in a small footprint, lightweight, efficient approach. A universal single-system cryogenic solution that could be used continuously from Human Landing System (HLS) to NASA facilities on earth would be ideal, however all innovative combinations of approaches, processes and systems that can deliver an actionable solution to this challenge are of significant interest

What are the two Challenge Categories?

Challenge Category #1: Small Transportable Cryogenic Containment Systems

Challenge Category #2: Innovations for Long-Term Cryogenic Stowage & Transportation

Why are there two Categories for the Challenge?

The Category 1 challenge encompasses a comprehensive, system-wide solution that can accommodate the stowage of lunar samples at cryogenic temperatures across and between multiple vehicles (Human Landing System, Gateway, Orion).

The Category 2 challenge addresses partial solutions that may address only a single component or step wise solution with the goal of enabling future cryogenic systems for one or more stages of the process.  This can include incremental cryogenic solutions.

Both categories are allocated the same prize pool of USD$20,000. Category #1 will award a maximum of USD$10,000 to each of the top two (2) Entries, as scored by the Judging Panel. Category #2 will award a maximum of USD$5,000 to each of the top four (4) entries, as scored by the Judging Panel.

What is the difference between the two challenges in terms of future activity with NASA?

All winners will be recognized through published announcements.

All winners may also have the opportunity for future collaboration with NASA, but neither category is guaranteed future activity with NASA.

How will the two Challenge categories be administered?

Challenge Categories 1 and 2 will be executed in parallel following the same timeline and the same set of rules and guidelines. Each Category will have a unique set of technical requirements and evaluation criteria. Each Category will have a unique submission form where participants will be able to submit their entries. Each Category will be evaluated independently by the judging panel.

What are the important dates for the Challenge? 

Submissions OpenWednesday, September 16, 2020
Submission DeadlineThursday, November 12, 2020 by 7:59 PM EST
EvaluationsFriday, November 13 – Friday, December 11, 2020
Winners NotifiedFriday, December 11 – Friday, December 18, 2020
Winners AnnouncedWednesday, January 6, 2021

Where can I find the Challenge rules?

Here, or you can download them below.

Where can I find TechConnect’s privacy statement?


Who is the Challenge sponsor?

The Challenge is being sponsored by NASA.

Who is the Challenge administrator?

The Challenge is administered and executed by TechConnect and TechConnect Ventures.

Who do I contact for information or questions about the Challenge?

All inquiries – including media – and requests related to participating in the Challenge should be directed to challenge@techconnectventures.com.

How do I participate in the Challenge?

In order to participate in the Challenge for the opportunity to win awards and prizes you must submit an eligible entry online through the submission form on the Challenge website no later than the deadline date and time.   The submission form includes specific questions that must be answered about your submission, in addition to instructions about supplemental information that can be submitted.

How can I determine if I am eligible to participate in the Challenge?

The Challenge is open to all eligible participants globally age 18 and older. Please see the official challenge rules for specific eligibility details and restrictions.

Can I submit entries to both Challenge categories?

Yes. See “About Awards and Prizes” in the official rules for details and restrictions for winning multiple awards.

Can I submit multiple entries to a single Challenge category?

Yes. See “About Awards and Prizes” in the official rules for details and restrictions for winning multiple awards.

What should I include in my entry?

Entry criteria and submission requirements are provided in the challenge statement and submission form for each category. Entries for either category should not include any information in their response which is considered confidential, proprietary, or protected.

What other information should I be aware of regarding my entry?

Please reference the official Challenge rules for a complete overview of the terms, conditions and other legal guidance related to the challenge, your entry and your rights and agreements as a participant.

Who judges the Challenge?

All eligible entries to the Challenge will be evaluated by a judging panel comprised of NASA subject matter experts.

What are the evaluation/scoring criteria used by the judging panel?

Entries will be evaluated and scored based on a variety of criteria, including: nature of the proposed solution, proposal quality, novelty/innovativeness, performance, design, technical maturity, and safety/risk. Each Challenge category will be assessed under a unique scoring system based on a weighted 100-point scale. Please reference the applicable Challenge category page and evaluation criteria for the category specific details.

What is the prize pool for this Challenge?

A total prize pool of up to USD$40,000 will be awarded to the Challenge winners, with USD$20,000 allocated for each Challenge Category. Category #1 will award a maximum of USD$10,000 to each of the top two (2) entries, as scored by the judging panel. Category #2 will award a maximum of USD$5,000 to each of the top four (4) entries, as scored by the judging panel.

What other awards are available to winners?

In addition to cash prizes, Challenge winners will be publicly announced and acknowledged on the Challenge website. Winners will be invited to a private virtual conference with one or more members of the NASA Challenge team to discuss your winning solution. Winners may also have opportunities for future collaboration with NASA regarding their entry. Future collaborations are in no way guaranteed.

Can I win multiple awards?

Participants selected as winners for category #1 may be eligible for awards related to category #2 as well. Participants are eligible to win multiple awards within a single category (#1 or #2), provided that the entries are clearly distinguishable as novel and different from one another as determined by the judging panel.

What are the conditions for accepting an award or prize for this Challenge?

Winners of the Challenge agree to grant NASA a royalty free, non-exclusive, irrevocable, world-wide license in all intellectual property demonstrated by the winning entry. 

When will award announcements be made?

Winners will be notified of their status no later than Friday, December 18th, 2020. Public announcement of winners will take place on Wednesday, January 6th, 2021.

Are awardees guaranteed future projects with NASA?

There are no guarantees for any projects, contracts, or collaboration with NASA.

What is the Artemis mission?

Click here for detail.

What is the Human Landing System (HLS)?

Click here for more detail.

What is Gateway?

Click here for more detail.

What is the Orion Spacecraft?

Click here for more detail.

Does our solution have to reach a temperature of -150° C?

Preference will be given to solutions which meet the target temperature of -150° C.  Novel solutions that significantly decrease mass, volume, or power requirements over existing technologies for cold stowage, but do not meet the target of -150° C may be considered.

Does our solution have to work for the whole transport process from Human Landing System (HLS) to Earth?

A comprehensive solution is sought for challenge #1 to accommodate the entire transport process.  For Challenge #2, step-wise or incremental solutions are acceptable.

Can our solution work only on one vehicle, like Human Landing System (HLS)?

For Challenge #1, a comprehensive solution across all vehicles is sought.  For challenge #2, a step-wise or incremental solution that works only on 1 vehicle is acceptable.

Our solution meets all the requirements except for one (e.g. power). Can we still submit it?

Yes – please submit the most complete solution possible, and the judges will evaluate all submissions based on the evaluation criteria.

For what minimum amount of time does the solution have to hold -150° C?

The sample will need to be maintained at or below -150° C for approximately two (2) weeks.  For component solutions (Challenge #2), they should expect to spend two (2) days on HLS, five (5) days with all vehicles docked to Gateway, and six (6) days on Orion.

I am not sure about my answers to some of the questions on the response form (e.g. how will the solution function under different gravity conditions). Can I still submit?

Please submit the most complete solution possible, and the judges will evaluate all submissions based on the evaluation criteria.

Does this solution have to have prior experience with application in space?

No, this solution does not require prior experience in space.

Are schematic designs or drawings required for submission?

They are not required, but any supplemental information to help evaluations is recommended.

How much relevant NASA open data is available to use in data lake to develop models for this competition entrance?

All available information regarding project specifications is here: https://l1.techconnectventures.com/guidelines/. No further data is available.

Could the samples be analyzed in situ on the Moon instead of back on Earth?

No, the samples will be brought back to Earth for further study.

For how much time will the container be exposed to external temperature of 17-25°C ? How many times? Will it be exposed to lower temperature?

Most of the time, the container will be sitting in the crewed cabin at room temperature conditions. So, the stowage time on the individual vehicles (HLS – 2 days, Gateway – 5 days, Orion – 6 days) will be at these conditions. It will only be exposed to lower temperature when it needs to be transferred between these vehicles, which will only take on the order of minutes.

Is the proof of concept required?

No, proof of concept is not required.

Must it be a solid-state device, like thermoelectrics?

No, but it must conform to the safety requirements listed here: https://l1.techconnectventures.com/evaluation/.

Will the system be exposed to external lunar pressure (e.g. vacuum) and temperatures (e.g. cryogenic temperatures)?

Yes, but this exposure will only occur very briefly (on the order of minutes) for transfer between vehicles.

Eventually will be there any de-pressurized storages/rooms on the rocket?

This challenge relates to cryogenic storage on 3 vehicles (not rockets): the HLS, Gateway, and Orion.

What is the technical document detail level (page count requirements, fundamental calculations, CAD, FEA, cost analysis, etc.)?

In the submission form, there are dedicated sections to describe the design, cooling approach, and cooling mechanism, as well as detailed questions about each aspect of the technical specifications for the challenge. In the submission form, there is also room to upload a file up to 2.1MB, which you are welcome to use to submit any additional calculations, FEA, etc.

For launch / reentry there’s G loading requirements. Are there any vibration / acoustics requirements?

We have no further information on vibration/acoustics requirements beyond what is already listed.

What is a TRL?

A TRL is a Technology Readiness Level. You can learn more about that here https://l1.techconnectventures.com/evaluation/ below the evaluation criteria.

OD versus ID?

The dimensions allowed for the system/unit are listed in the challenge as external dimensions (OD) of the unit. The internal dimensions (ID) of the unit are listed to accommodate a sample contained the size of a cylinder, 20cm diameter by 30cm long

Can this container be stored/transported outside of the lunar vehicle, or must it be stored in the crewed cabin?

Inside the crewed cabin. There will be limited robotic capability to transfer anything from the lander to Orion while at Gateway, and any external payload containers would not be ideal for Orion reentry to Earth. 

Currently on the ISS, the Express single locker units are the size that is specified in Category 1. Our team would like to know more about the general exterior shape you are envisioning and how this will be different across vehicles.

Unfortunately, as these vehicles are still in development, we don’t have the final dimensions for the volumes available on each vehicle. It is anticipated to have a container that is very similar to the lockers mentioned. The reference volumes are all we can provide at this time.

Haven’t we already studied moon rocks? What’s different? What are we hoping to learn?

The Moon has roughly the same surface area as the entire continent of Africa. During the Apollo program, we sampled just six places on the Moon, and in mostly similar regions (geologically speaking). Imagine if we only went to six places in Egypt – would those rocks be the same as those from Ethiopia, South Africa, etc?

The south pole region on the Moon has several important characteristics that make it distinct from the rest of the Moon, and in particular the Apollo landing sites. First, it has a record of (rocks left over from) some of the largest impacts that formed on the Moon, a long time ago when the Earth and Moon first formed. Second, the south pole has extremely cold regions called permanently shadowed regions (PSRs), which trap water and other ices for long periods of time. Those volatiles will allow us to understand how water/volatiles were delivered to the Moon – and potentially to the Earth – by comets, asteroids, or other processes.

Is there a lower temperature limit that the lunar rock sample can be stored at? For example, is storing the sample at 4K acceptable?

In principle, 4K would be fine because it would limit/slow down any chemical reactions that could happen in the sample at higher temperatures. However, the temperatures on the Moon are not that cold, so there won’t be any benefit to going below the lunar temperatures. Right now, the lower temperature limits will depend on where we sample and what we expect to be in the sample. But we are planning for cryogenic temperatures, probably in the 40K range for our coldest samples. The temperature will be based on the compounds we expect in the samples, and what analyses will be conducted on them, so we don’t have an exact temperature target value right now. The coldest temperature on the Moon is ~25K so that would be the absolute coldest we would go.