Break the Ice
Lunar Challenge
Phase 2

Q1. What is Break the Ice Lunar Challenge?

A: The Break the Ice Lunar Challenge is a public competition that seeks to incentivize innovative approaches for excavating icy regolith and delivering acquired resources in extreme lunar environmental conditions. The Challenge seeks to incentivize solutions for maximizing resource delivery while minimizing energy use and the mass of equipment delivered to the lunar surface.

Q2: Who is conducting this challenge?

A: NASA is conducting this challenge through Centennial Challenges Program. The program offers incentive prizes to generate revolutionary solutions to problems of interest to NASA and the nation. The program seeks innovations from diverse and non-traditional sources. Competitors are not supported by government funding and awards are only made to successful teams when the challenges are met.

Q3: Who is Ensemble?

A: Ensemble is a contractor that provides challenge operations services. NASA has contracted with Ensemble to support the administration and promotion of this Challenge.

Q4: What are the important dates for Phase 2 of the Break the Ice Lunar Challenge?

A: Here is the competition calendar


Date Description
June 2, 2022 ●      Phase 2 opens
June – September 2022 ●      Webinars to support registered teams and potential teams

●      Promotional activities and/or other support for registered teams

September 30, 2022 ●      Phase 2 registration deadline

●      Eligibility Requirements document and Proof of Insurance submission deadline

November 4, 2022 ●      Level 1 submission deadline
December 5, 2022 ●      Level 1 winners’ announced
●      Announcement of all teams that will move to Level 2
September 15, 2023 ●      Deadline to start long duration Testing
October 27, 2023 ●      Level 2 submission deadline
December 2023 ●      Level 2 winners’ announcement

●      Selection and announcement of all teams that will move to Level 3

March 2024 ●      Deadline for teams to confirm Level 3 participation
May 2024 ●      Level 3 competition and winners’ announcement
Note: All deadlines are at 11:59 PM Eastern on the specified date.

Q5: I’d like to participate – how do I get started?

A: All interested U.S. and International teams must first register through the Challenge website https://breaktheicechallenge.com/ by September 30, 2022 (11:59 PM Eastern). Specific instructions for registration can be viewed on the challenge website.

Once a team has submitted their registration and supporting documents, the Challenge Administrators will review the registration and notify the team leader of acceptance to compete. NOTE: A team is not officially registered as a competitor until the team leader receives an official confirmation email from the Challenge Administrators stating that the registration documents have been accepted.

Q6: I just registered for the Challenge, what’s my next step?

A: Thanks for registering. Please look out for an email from the Challenge Administrators accepting the registration or asking for missing or additional documentation.

Q7: Did I have to participate in Phase 1 in order to participate in Phase 2?

A: Teams do not have to participate in Phase 1 to participate in Phase 2.

Q8: How can I stay up to date on what’s happening with the Challenge?

A: Please visit the Challenge website often to view the latest updates and review the FAQ page on a regular basis to see the latest questions and answers. You can also sign up for updates on the home page.

Q9: How will submissions be assessed?

A: A Panel of expert judges will review the submissions and discuss, evaluate, and rank the entries. The Judging Panel has discretion in the assessment and scoring of submissions and in recommending the winners. NASA will review the recommendations from the Judging Panel, validate the recommendations, and announce winners for awards.

Q10: What can I win?

A. Phase 2 will offer a total prize purse of up to $3 million for the U.S. Teams.

Level 1: All teams that submit compliant deliverables by the deadline and are eligible to win the prizes will be awarded an equal share of the $500,000 prize purse up to a maximum of $75,000 per team. All teams that submit compliant deliverables by the deadline will move to Level 2, regardless of whether they earn prize money.

Level 2: Below table provides prize purse distribution for Level 2 for the U.S. teams. In order to be eligible to receive a prize, a team must score a minimum of 40 points in Level 2. All prizes will be determined based on teams’ overall scores.


Level 2 Prize Purse
1st Place $300,000
2nd Place $200,000
3rd Place $125,000
Up to 5 (five) Runners Up ($75,000 each) $375,000
Level 2 Total $1,000,000

Up to 15 teams (including the winners and runners up) that score above the minimum score will be invited to compete in Level 3.


Level 3: Level 3 will offer up to $1.5M in cash prizes split between the 1st place ($1M) and 2nd place ($0.5M). In addition to the cash prizes, NASA will also award opportunities to test concepts in a dusty Thermal Vacuum Chamber that will simulate the temperature and atmospheric pressure conditions at the lunar south pole. Detailed Prize Purse Distribution and scoring requirements to be eligible to receive the prize will be provided at a later date and will be available on the challenge website.

Recognition for International teams

Up to 3 top scoring International teams will be recognized as winners in Level 2 and Level 3. Teams must score a minimum of 40 points to be recognized as winners in Level 2. Criteria to be considered a winner in Level 3 will be provided at a later date on the challenge website. International teams must meet the eligibility requirements to participate in the Challenge and be recognized as winners. International teams are not eligible to be awarded prize money or TVAC testing opportunities.

Q11: What Incentives are there for the Teams?

A: (1) Eligible teams can win prizes. (2) All participating teams get certificates. (3) Teams get opportunities to interact with NASA and industry SMEs through webinars. (4) Names of the teams that complete the registration will be listed on the challenge website. (5) Names of the winning teams will be included in the NASA press release and social media announcements.

Q12: What happens to my intellectual property?

A: Neither NASA nor Ensemble claim any intellectual property (IP) rights from the teams’ submissions. All trade secrets, copyrights, patent rights, and software rights will remain with each respective team.

Q13: Who can I contact with questions or about my submission?

A: Please direct all questions to admin@breaktheicechallenge.com and a member of our support team will respond as quickly as possible.

Questions sent to any other email address or individual will not be addressed.

Q14: Who can I contact for more information about the Break the Ice Lunar Challenge?

A: All questions related to participating and/or competing in the Challenge should be sent to admin@breaktheicechallenge.com

Questions sent to any other email address or individual will not be addressed.

Media inquires should be directed to:

Molly Porter – molly.a.porter@nasa.gov


+1 256-544-2771


Adam Karides – akarides@ensembleconsultancy.com


+1 202-495-1639

Q15: Where can I find information about webinars?

A: Webinar details will be posted on the challenge website well in advance of the webinar. If you missed a webinar, recordings will be available on the challenge website within 48 hours of the webinar: https://breaktheicechallenge.com/resources-media/

Q16: Who is eligible to participate as a U.S. or International Team?

A: Break the Ice Lunar Challenge is open to individuals and teams from around the globe, with some restrictions. All interested teams should refer to the Rules for specific eligibility requirements to compete and/or win a prize.

Q17: What is meant by “Chinese Entity”?

A: Competitors cannot be affiliated with a Chinese entity. An entity includes a Chinese company, university, government entity, research institute, etc. So competitors cannot work for the Chinese government or a Chinese company or be students at a Chinese university or school.

Q18: Can a person with a green card (not US citizen) participate in the competition?

A: Yes, a green card holder is considered a permanent resident, and can participate in the challenge and be eligible to win a prize from NASA.

Q19. I’m a U.S. citizen/permanent resident interested in participating in this Challenge. Will including foreign nationals on my Team disqualify the Team from being eligible for the prize money?

A: Please refer to the Rules document for the detailed eligibility criteria.

Team may include foreign nationals and be eligible to win prize money as long as the foreign national signs and delivers a disclosure (separate form) wherein he/she discloses his/her citizenship and acknowledge that he/she is not eligible to win a prize from NASA, AND

  1. The foreign national is an employee of an otherwise eligible U.S. entity participating in the Challenge,
  2. The foreign national is an owner of such entity, so long as foreign citizens own less than 50% of the interests in the entity,
  3. The foreign national is a contractor under written contract to such entity, OR
  4. The foreign national is a full-time student, during the time of the Challenge, of an otherwise eligible entity which is an accredited institution of higher learning, AND the student is during the Challenge in the United States on a valid student visa and is otherwise in compliance with all local, state, and federal laws and regulations regarding the sale and export of technology.

Q20: Can I participate as an individual in the competition?

A: Anyone can register to participate in the competition as long as they meet the eligibility requirements as stated on the Challenge website

Q21: Can we add additional Team members after we have registered and completed the Team registration form?

A: New team members may be added to the team after the initial registration period ends. Team members previously registered for the challenge on one team may not switch teams during the same phase of the competition. The existing team leader is accountable for any decision to make changes to the team roster, including bringing on new team members and/or releasing registered team members. New team members must meet the eligibility requirements and submit all required paperwork and supporting documents as stated on the Challenge website.

Q22: Is it allowed for an individual to be on multiple Teams?

A: Challenge rules don’t have any restrictions on the number of teams an individual is part of. It is up to the individual and the teams to decide.

Q23: What range of Team sizes are you expecting? Would a 2-3 person Team be judged more leniently than a larger Team?

A: We have no expectations on the size of a team. A team can be anywhere from a single individual to a large group. The size of the team is not taken into account in the judging process.

Q24: Is it allowed for an organization to sponsor/have multiple Teams to compete in the Challenge?

A: Challenge rules don’t prohibit an organization from sponsoring/having more than one team. It is up to an organization on how many teams they want to sponsor.

Q25: Can individuals under 18 compete?

A: Individuals under 18 are not eligible to compete to win a prize from NASA. BUT that doesn’t mean that you can’t participate in furthering NASA’s missions, or contributing to technology advancements for Earth applications. Click on the links below to explore how you can be a part of some of the many exciting Student Challenges:



Q26: Why do I need insurance?

A: The U.S. Government requires all individuals and entities involved in challenges of this type to have adequate insurance coverage. Competitors are obligated to abide by existing U.S. Government guidelines.

Q27: What documentation should be submitted to show proof of insurance?

A: Teams are free to submit whatever they feel will demonstrate the required insurance coverage and the document will be reviewed for compliance with the rules.

Q28: My Team and I are NASA contractors. Will using our company resources disqualify us from competing in this challenge?

A: Please refer to the Eligibility section in the Rules document. NASA contractors may enter the competition, or be members of prize-eligible teams, so long as they are not within the scope of their contract, and they rely on no facilities, access, personnel, knowledge or other resources that are available to them as a result of their employment except for those resources available to all other participants on an equal basis.

Q29: My Team and I are NASA contractors. Could you please provide a list of things we can and can’t do to maintain our eligibility?

A: We are unable to provide such a list. It is a team’s responsibility to understand the eligibility requirements.

Q30: My Team didn’t compete in Phase 1, do we need to submit Phase 1 deliverables to compete in Phase 2?

A: Submitting Phase 1 deliverables is not a requirement to compete in Phase 2. However, we encourage teams to think about system architecture and how their excavator & transportation system fits within that architecture.

Q31: Will all the Level 1 winners be invited to compete in Level 3?

A: No. All Level 2 winners and runners up will be invited to compete in Level 3. In addition, NASA may choose to invite other Level 2 participants to compete in Level 3 based on their performance in Level 2. Names of all the teams that will be invited to compete in Level 3 will be announced during Level 2 winners announcement.

Q32: Can a U.S. company submit a concept currently under development through an SBIR award?

A: If you are a past grantee of the SBIR program, you may apply. If you are a current grantee, please note that no U.S. government funds may be used to prepare your submission.

Q33: Will the list of competing Teams be available on the website?

A: We plan to publish the list of teams on the website after the registration deadline.

Q34: What if a presenter or panelist in a webinar says something that conflicts with the rules or a previously published FAQ?

A: The Challenge rules and any accompanying FAQs supersede anything said at a webinar or by any other individual in a public or private forum.

Q35: Is it allowed for a Team to receive input from NASA/Federal SMEs on their concepts?

A: Teams may not receive input from NASA/Federal SMEs unless all teams are given such access on an equitable basis.  Such access is not provided as part of this challenge.

Q36: Is there a particular Technology Readiness Level (TRL) the technologies that we are developing should be by the end of Phase 2?

A: There is no specific TRL required to submit. Teams can provide an estimated current TRL for their submission and a description that supports the assessment.

Q37: When and where should we send the link to the live feed testing?

A:  Link to the live video stream must be provided on the test start date to admin@breaktheicechallenge.com

Q38: How do we notify about the test start date?

A: Notify Centennial Challenges of anticipated start date of durability demonstration a minimum of 28 days in advance of anticipated start date. Any changes to the start date of the test after sending this notification must be immediately communicated with a justification for the change. All notifications must be sent to admin@breaktheicechallenge.com

Q39: What happens when the Team can’t support the onsite visit due to pandemic related restrictions or any other restrictions.

A: We understand that an onsite visit may not be possible in certain cases. Team needs to provide proper justification in these cases and work with Ensemble to find an alternative way to show their testing to judges.

Q40: Can you provide any additional information on lunar regolith?

A: Below are two additional sources of information. Please note that these are just examples and they may not be complete and there may be other sources available.

Lunar Sourcebook: https://www.lpi.usra.edu/publications/books/lunar_sourcebook/

NASA Lunar Regolith Simulant User’s Guide – https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/nasa_tm_2010_216446_simuserg.pdf

Q41: Can you provide a list of lunar regolith simulants?

A: There is no official NASA lunar simulant database. Interested teams can visit this external database: https://simulantdb.com/

Q42: Which unit system should we use in our reports?

A: It is recommended that you use the International System of Units (SI) or the multiples and submultiples of SI units in your reports. For example, Mass (kg), Distance (m or km), Temperature (K), Energy (J or kJ or MJ or kWh), etc.

Q43: How exact are the latitude/longitude positions of various areas given in the mission scenario?

A: The latitude/longitude numbers given in the Phase 1 rules are approximate locations provided to direct the reader to the location of each site. Figures 1 to 4 show the exact locations of all the areas. It is possible that the latitude/longitude provided in the Phase 1 rules are anywhere within tens to hundreds of meters away from the center of each area.

Q44: Are there any rules or guidelines about designing for dust?

A: Teams should use their own experience and judgment regarding designing their equipment for dust. Teams may refer to information contained in NASA-STD-1008, Classifications and Requirements for Testing Systems and Hardware to be Exposed to Dust in Planetary Environments and the DSNE (Design Specification for Natural Environment), although this NASA standards document should not be considered by teams as a list of requirements to be met for this Challenge.


Q45: Do Teams need to simulate lighting conditions at the Lunar South Pole for demonstration testing?

A: Since lunar lighting is not a technology gap focus of this Challenge, teams are not required to simulate lunar lighting conditions and their prototype systems are not required to depend on onboard light sources.

Q46: Will we get bonus points if we create and excavate 10% strength concrete instead of 4%?

A: No. 10% water content icy regolith simulant will not be considered or used during Phase 2.

Q48: Why are Teams being asked to excavate and transport 12,000 kg? What is the significance of this amount?

A: Teams may recall that the Mission Scenario discussed in Phase 1 of this Challenge involved working for 365 Earth days to deliver 10,000 kg of clean processed water to the landing site. If we assume that 4% water content icy-regolith was used throughout that mission, it would take a total of 250,000 kg of raw icy-regolith as input to the Water Extraction Plant in order to make 10,000 kg worth of output water. So 12,000 kgs of raw icy-regolith is approximately a 15-day snapshot out of that 365-day overall mission minus some assumed equipment setup time.

Q49: When is the Durability Demonstration Test considered done?

A: The Durability Demonstration Test continues until one of the following end scenarios occurs:

  • End Scenario 1: 15 full, 24-hour long, earth days elapse before the team excavates and delivers the target 12,000 kg of simulated regolith or
  • End Scenario 2: The team excavates and delivers the target 12,000 kg of simulated regolith before 15 full, 24-hour long, earth days elapse or
  • End Scenario 3: Required equipment breaks down beyond the repair capabilities of the planned and included landed mass before 15 full, 24-hour long, earth days elapse and/or before the team excavates and delivers the target 12,000 kg of simulated regolith

Q50: Is it okay to go over the given page limit for the deliverables?

A: No. Teams must adhere to the given page limits. Any information contained in the excess pages beyond the given page limit will not be read or evaluated.

Q51: If a Team is uncertain if a component being considered for their robotic systems is acceptable as a terrestrial substitute for one that is lunar ready what should they do?

A: If a team has a question about the acceptability of a specific terrestrial component, they should send the question to admin@breaktheicechallenge.com to receive official guidance (please allow two weeks for this process).  Note that the overall acceptability of the complete robot(s) will be judged as part of Level 1.

Q52: Can robots be designed to use GPS for localization even though GPS will not be accessible on the moon?

A: Since GPS-denied localization and navigation is a challenging engineering problem which many groups and organizations are actively working to solve, Challenge Rules do not prohibit the use of that technology during Phase 2 Level 2 where Teams will demonstrate long term excavation and transportation operations at a test site of their own choosing. Teams who choose to use GPS must explain the technology they would notionally use on the surface of the Moon in their Detailed Design Report Level 1 deliverable. Teams who choose to use GPS must use a non-GPS means of aligning their robot with the icy-regolith collection bin used to dump excavated and hauled icy-regolith simulant. Please note that it is unlikely that satellite GPS signals will be received strongly by the robots competing inside the NASA provided arena which will be utilized during Phase 2 Level 3 of this Challenge.

Q54: Can we stop the timer for any reasons such as inclement weather, illness, lack of personnel etc.?

A: Once the 15 day durability test begins no pause in executing a Teams Durability Demonstration Test is allowed. Section 3.2.4 of the Rules requires the test plan to target operations for 15 full 24 hour days under ambient conditions.

Q55: Is there a specific requirement for continuous operations?

A: Rules don’t require continuous operations.

Q56: During level 2 can we perform the long duration test multiple times and submit the best result?

A: Teams are encouraged to dry run their systems as many times as they want. However, Teams must submit results from the testing which was observed by the judges.

Q57: Can I use explosives to break up the icy regolith simulant prior to collection are not allowed?

A: Per the rules, “Excavation” is defined as the use of a tool or tools to remove in-situ material from a predetermined location.

Q58: Are we allowed to perform our own custom compressive strength test or is there a set test we need to do?

A: Section 3.2.5 of the Rules recommends the use of testing procedures described in ASTM C39 but Teams may validate compressive strength using other means as long as they justify those means.

Q60: Is the scale and bin for weighing the regolith and the means for moving the regolith after weighing to be included in the total mass and energy use budgets?

A: If the scale and bin for weighing the regolith is not part of the system architecture i.e. it does not assist in unloading the regolith, then its mass and energy are not included in the total budget for these parameters.

Q61: Is it a requirement that the teams which win TVAC testing opportunities in Level 3 have to test only the prototypes used in Level 2/3 in the TVAC testing?

A: Teams that receive this opportunity will work with the TVAC staff in determining the testing logistics and whether they want to test the level 2/3 prototype or an improvised version of that prototype (or a sub-system).

Q64: To meet the live streaming requirement, are we allowed to use a camera system that only streams the video to a mobile device (e.g., cell phone) app or is PC viewing required?

A: Mobile app technology for viewing live streams is allowed, however, live viewing by our judging and evaluation team via a web browser on their personal computers is required.

Q65: What is the procedure to address inadvertent loss, or streaming service timeout, of the live-stream after the original link has been sent on the start date?

A: If there is inadvertent loss of streaming service during the durability demonstrations test then reestablish the link and inform the Challenge Administration at admin@breaktheicechallenge.com.

Q66: Our team is experiencing issues with our icy regolith simulant (CLSM) and availability of spare parts for our robotic system that may result in a delay to our testing start date. What is the latest that we can begin testing and still receive a score for our durability demonstration?

Section 3.2.2 of the Rules provides a timeline for Phase 2. September 15, 2023 is the deadline to start long duration testing. Teams that do not start testing by September 15th will not be judged and are not eligible for cash prize awards. The Rules identify three artifacts which will indicate the start of long duration testing

1) Section 3.2.8 requires Teams to notify the Challenge organizers 28 days prior to their start date,

2) Section 3.2.5 requires Teams to have a certified test report of their simulated icy regolith documenting an unconfined compressive strength of from 1.5 MPa to 2.0 MPa and,

3) Section requires Teams to provide the Challenge organizers (email to admin@breaktheicechallenge.com) with a link to their live video stream at the start of testing. When these three artifacts are available a Team is considered to have started their 15 day durability demonstration.

Q67: I am going to need to make a change to the transportation demonstration area route based on the system testing results. The route modifications may not be complete until the day prior to the start of the demonstration. Do I need to amend the four week prior change report?

A: Even though the physical modification to the demonstration area is not yet finished, a sketch of the proposed change should be sent to the Challenge administrator as soon as possible.

Q68: What is the definition of robot "repair"? Am I allowed to tweak or modify my robot if I run into a problem after my 15 day durability demonstration test has started?

A: Rules section, Level 2 Deliverables, states that teams must describe in their Level 2 Durability Demonstration Test Report any changes to the prototype robot design that was submitted in Level 1.  The rules do not designate a cutoff date for robot changes, which means changes are allowed to occur even during the 15-day Durability Demonstration Test, with the following caveats.  All changes must be documented in the team’s Level 2 Durability Demonstration Test Report deliverable.  The empty mass of the robot must be reported in the Durability Demonstration Test Report any time that mass changed during the 15-day Durability Demonstration Test.  And any modifications to the robot during the 15-day Durability Demonstration Test can only utilize spare parts, spare materials, tools and equipment that were identified, set aside, and weighed before the 15-day Durability Demonstration Test began.

Q69: Are we allowed to start the testing after September 15th if our CLSM doesn’t reach the required compressive strength?

A: Teams that do not start testing by September 15th will not be judged and are not eligible for cash prize awards.  Therefore, it is possible for a team to start their test on September 15th with a compressive strength that is less than the required strength.  In that case the Challenge staff will apply an appropriate penalty to that team’s final Level 2 score.

Don’t find answer(s) to your question(s) in the below FAQs?

Please submit them here or email your question(s) to admin@breaktheicechallenge.com.