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  • Post published:26/01/2022
  • Post last modified:26/01/2022

Love the idea of getting humankind to Mars ASAP? Here’s how you can make that happen — and get paid for your efforts.

HeroX, a platform dedicated to crowdsourcing solutions to difficult problems, launched a new competition on Tuesday, Jan. 18 titled, “Waste to Base Materials Challenge: Sustainable Reprocessing in Space.”

Quite the mouthful, right? Here’s what that really means: Future missions to the red planet are expected to take two to three years (or more), including the return mission, and someone needs to figure out what to do with the waste generated by astronauts during that time. HeroX is hoping you can find the solution.

The Mars 2020 Rover is seen in the spacecraft assembly area clean room, December 27, 2019 during a media tour at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The Mars 2020 Rover is seen in the spacecraft assembly area clean room, December 27, 2019 during a media tour at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
| Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

As part of the new competition, the company announced in a statement that it’s “seeking innovative approaches to repurpose, recycle, and reprocess the waste generated on board to enable mission sustainability.”

HeroX noted, because supply logistics are very difficult, the spacecraft needs to be hyper-efficient and as self-sustaining as possible, making it imperative to find ways to convert waste to usable material (i.e. fuel or feedstock). “While a perfectly efficient cycle is unlikely, ideal solutions will result in little to no waste,” HeroX added in a statement released to Travel + Leisure. The winning solution could one day become part of NASA’s holistic ecosystem for a Mars-bound craft.

“This is exactly what our crowd is poised to do: solve intractable problems with an eye for efficiency and sustainability,” Kal K. Sahota, president and CEO of HeroX, said in the aforementioned statement. “I am eager to see the submissions.”

The challenge invites the community to offer approaches to waste management and conversion in four specific categories: trash; fecal waste; foam packaging material; and carbon dioxide processing.

An Atlas V rocket with NASA's Perseverance Mars rover launches from pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Mars 2020 mission plans to land the Perseverance rover on the Red Planet in February 2021 where it will seek signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth.
| Credit: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Now, onto the fun part: the prize. There will be multiple winners in each category who will receive a prize of $1,000 for their ideas. Judges will also recognize four ideas as “best in class,” which comes with an additional $1,000. All told, the company will give away $24,000 of prize money.

The competition is open to anyone age 18 or older participating as an individual or as a team. Individual competitors and teams may originate from any country, as long as United States federal sanctions do not prohibit participation (some restrictions apply, so make sure to check the fine print). See all the details and submit your idea on the HeroX website.

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