Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Break the Ice Phase 1

NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge seeks to incentivize innovative approaches for excavating icy regolith and delivering water in extreme lunar conditions such as the lunar south pole.


Total Cash Prizes Offered: $500,000
Type of Challenge: Ideas, Scientific
Partner Agencies | Federal: NASA Centennial Challenges, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA Kennedy Space Center, NASA Langley Research Center
Partner Agencies | Non-federal: Ensemble
Submission Start: 11/18/2020 11:00 AM ET
Submission End: 06/18/2021 11:59 PM ET


As NASA works to extend human exploration of the solar system, a sustained presence on the Moon will be critical for developing and testing the technologies and systems needed for future missions to Mars and beyond.

In situ resource utilization (ISRU)—the development of lunar materials for life support, fuel, energy, manufacturing, and construction—is necessary to limit the delivery of supplies from Earth.

One of the most important of these resources is water. Water supports all life on Earth, and will be critical to supporting human exploration beyond Earth. On the Moon, water is trapped in icy regolith at the lunar poles, including inside permanently shadowed regions (PSRs).

Phase 1 of the Break the Ice Lunar Challenge is focused on incentivizing new ideas and approaches to a system architecture for excavation and movement of icy regolith and water on the lunar surface.


Phase 1 Total: Five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000 USD)

Prize Breakdown

Prize purses for Phase 1 will total up to $500,000. 1st Prize - $125,000, 2nd Prize - $75,000, 3rd Prize - $50,000, and up to ten (10) runner-up Teams will receive up to $25,000 each.


For details visit the official Break the Ice Challenge website:

Judging Criteria

The Challenge describes a hypothetical Mission Scenario and asks Teams to design a system architecture addressing necessary hardware, concept of operations, lunar environmental conditions, and specific performance analyses, as well as supporting materials that address credibility and feasibility of the system architecture.

In Phase 1, Teams will submit System Architecture, Excavation Plan, and a Mission Animation. Following the submission deadline, the Judging Panel will review the Phase 1 Submissions and meet (in-person or on video conference) to discuss, evaluate, and rank the Teams. The Judging Panel will evaluate Phase 1 Submissions on the following factors.

  • Scientific/Technical Merit
  • Completeness
  • Addresses the Mission Scenario
  • Feasibility and Design of Proposed Architecture
  • Key Performance Goals

Teams must score at least 100 points in order to be eligible for a prize purse.

How To Enter

All interested teams must register on the official challenge website ( by the given deadline and meet the eligibility requirements as stated in the Official Rules in order to participate in the Challenge.

Point of Contact

Have feedback or questions about this challenge? Send the challenge manager an email