Purdue University And NASA’s Lunabotics Competition

Purdue Lunabotics is an organisation that serves to promote the advancement of robotics in the field of space colonisation and exploration. Such is done through the designing and development of remote controlled robots. 


Purdue University 

Purdue University was founded in 1869 and is located in West Lafayette, Indiana. The university was officially established after a wealthy businessman, John Purdue, donated his land. His idea was to have a university of science, technology and agriculture constructed on his soil. John Purdue also intended to name the university after his name. 


Each year NASA hosts a LUNABOTICS competition that involves university level teams to use the and adopt the usage of NASA Systems Engineering Process. The idea is to conduct a challenge between university students that use the NASA Systems Engineering Process to design, build and operate a lunar robot. 

“The teams also perform public outreach, submit systems engineering papers, and demonstrate their work to a NASA review panel.” NASA states on their website. 


The competition was renamed to LUNABOTICS from Robotic Mining Competition. The first Robotic Mining Competition was held in 2010. Purdue University has been a part of this event since the very beginning. 

“After three years of delay due to a government shutdown and COVID-19, we were finally able to host the LUNABOTICS competition in a brand new regolith simulant arena,” said Robert Mueller – a senior technologist and principal investigator in Kennedy’s Exploration Systems and Development Office. “In previous years, we were in rented tents, fighting the heat, humidity, lightning storms, and rain with flooding. Now we are in a first-class, safe, reliable, air conditioned, indoor facility.”

Worsening Conditions 

When the competition used to get held in outdoor tents, some teams faced extreme challenges during their mining runs. Some even had their robots stuck in the regolith. However, the teams still didn’t use to give up so quickly. They made amendments in time to carry out a decent performance. Some teams from Purdue  faced issues where their robots just neglected to  even move. 


“An interesting effect was that the regolith simulant was drier than when it was outdoors in a tent, so the competitors noticed a change in its shear strength, causing it to fluff up, making it harder to drive on – just like the Moon!,” stated Meuller. 

“Each year we design, build, and code an autonomous mining robot from the ground up to compete in a NASA lunar-style mining compeition.” explains Purdue University on their official website regarding the LUNABOTICS convention. 

What Other Competitions Are Held By NASA?

NASA is not only about rockets and robots but they actually consider various aspects of today’s technology. Crop science or biomedical science, NASA covers it all. To motivate the young scientists out there, NASA consecutively holds different competitions. Students can participate in those and learn the NASA way of doing things. In some of these competitions, the space company even lets the students work with their own state-of-the-art equipment. 

Nevertheless, here’s a list of the most famous competitions held by NASA to promote advancements in technology for the students out there. 

  • Plant the Moon and Mars Challenge
  • Lunabotics
  • Human Exploration Rover Challenge
  • International Space Settlement Design Competition
  • Spaceport America Cup
  • The American Rocketry Challenge
  • NASA Student Launch Competition
  • Micro-G Next
  • NASA BIG Idea Challenge
  • Great Lunar Expedition For Everyone (GLEE)
  • International Space Apps Challenge
  • NASA AstroPhoto Contests
  • Zero Robotics Competition