NASA seeks proposals for reliable solar power systems to operate on Mars

NASA has invited proposals from university students for reliable and cost-effective solar power systems that can operate both day and night on Mars.

It has invited proposals through its 2018 Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge.

Students can submit their proposals until November.

NASA has urged interested teams of three to five undergraduate and/or graduate students to submit not only proposals but also a two-minute video describing their concept.

NASA's Game Changing Development Program, which is managed by the agency's Space Technology Mission Directorate, and the National Institute of Aerospace, has sought new concepts that focus on innovative mechanical, low mass and high efficiency design that can provide sustained power on the Mars surface for several years.

Harnessing solar power in Mars is marred by several challenges. The angle and distance of the spacecraft from the sun changes substantially during different seasons, which impacts solar power flow. Further, dust is a threat as it could form a blanket over solar panels.

The aim of the challenge is to secure a dependable power source before astronauts step on the red planet.

Of the proposals, NASA and industry experts will choose four teams to continue developing their proposed concepts, submit a technical paper, and present their concepts in a design review at the 2018 BIG Idea Forum, to be held at a NASA centre in early March 2018.

The winning teams will receive a $6,000 stipend each to take part in the forum.