Fueling Future Space Missions

University of Utah students are engineering future space mission technology. At the 2023 NASA Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-Changing (BIG) Idea Challenge, a graduate team led by Collin Andersen and John Otero won the Artemis Award, the highest honor. Every year, this challenge targets problems on the moon, the 2023 theme being Lunar Forge: extracting materials and building using lunar rock.

The winning report, “Production of Steel from Lunar Regolith Through Carbonyl Iron Refining,” developed a device equipping astronauts with metal in space. “When it comes to sending a rocket into space, over 90% of the weight is fuel,” Andersen said. Space for equipment and metal is limited.

The team created a two-chamber device to pressurize iron out of moon soil. “In a single, compact step, you extract, purify, and turn iron into a powder suitable for 3D printing,” Andersen said. “This can help replace equipment and fix damaged parts.”

“What is the next step?” said Otero. “NASA or other companies can take this idea, make it on a bigger scale, and then hopefully one day it will be on a lunar mission.”

The team was honored to win the Artemis Award and the chance to compete against brilliant space innovations nationwide. Mentored by Professor Hong Sohn and the Utah Space Consortium, the team is composed of Andersen, Otero, Olivia Dale, Christian Norman, Cole Walker, Jason Sheets, Talon Townsend, Juliana Ortiz, Olivia Slane, Jordan Contreras, and Jarom Chamberlin.

More articles like this in ‘Student Innovation @ the U!’

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About the Author:

Abigail Cheney Originally from Connecticut, Abigail Cheney came to the University of Utah for their esteemed entrepreneurship and marketing programs. She is passionate about startups and entrepreneurial exploration. Her enthusiasm aligns with writing and additional artistic endeavors. Connect on LinkedIn.

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