2013 Sample Return Centennial Challenge

In June 2012 and 2013, NASA ran a Centennial Challenge competition at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The concept for the competition was a robot on the Moon or Mars retrieving samples. Its tasks were:

* Obtain a pre-cached sample

* Search for other interesting samples

* Return all samples to a landing platform

The area of the competition was 80,000 square meters and had to be searched in 2 hours. The robot (or robots) could move no faster than 2 meters/second.

The competition consisted of two phases. The first phase was for the robot to leave the platform and return the pre-cached sample within 30 minutes (15 minutes in 2012). The second was to search the competition area and return to the platform whatever samples were found.

In 2012 a number of teams competed but only one passed the safety and compliance checks. That team was unable to complete the phase one activity.

In 2013 there were 14 teams registered but only eleven arrived for the challenge. One team left after having some problems with wiring. The remaining teams all qualified to compete. The Phase 1 competition was run on Wednesday and, since nobody completed Phase 1, it was repeated on Thursday. One Thursday three teams picked up a sample, one team returned to the starting platform without a sample, and two teams made it back to the platform with the sample. Unfortunately, one team that made it back did not stop with the sample in the 2 meter area so did was not successful. The other team did stop with the sample in the correct location.

Site Purpose

I heard of this challenge in the summer of 2011 and thought about it considerably through the fall months. The deadline for submitting an entry was 2 January 2012. I seriously considered entering but decided not to for both technical and personal reasons. I eagerly awaited the competition in June to see who would compete and the final results.

In September 2012, NASA released a NASA360 video from the day of the competition. At the first showing, on the web, they had a chat room where a number of the teams participated. It was during the chat that NASA said the challenge would be done again.

I am again considering entering the competition. (I did for 2013.) This portion of the project pages is to document my thoughts to share with others whether I actually compete or not.

The Analysis at 30,000 feet page is a good starting point for this project.