XPRIZE Lunar Water

Resources in space are needed to sustain development, yet they are currently scarce in space and costly to bring from Earth. To unlock the potential of space resources, prospecting is increasingly needed (lunar polar water, trojan asteroids).

Technologies could potentially include AI, nanoscopic space probes, or bounties for non-terrestrial materials we can use. May include the prospecting of asteroids, water, other volatiles, metal, organic volatiles.

We would like to learn from you:

  • What are the innovation gaps in this area?
  • What would the winning team need to do?
  • What would be audacious but achievable targets?
  • What is the expected impact of this prize?

Hi @derleth, @marz62, @interplanetary - In your views is this prize idea audacious enough to be the next XPRIZE? if so, what should be the targets for such a competition.

What innovation gaps in this area should this competition meet?

Hi @kchance and @ScotBryson - In your views, what are the innovation gaps in this idea of prospecting resources in space? What should be the Impact of such a prize?

Hi @SarahMGomez, @Labonets and @manuel.ntumba - In your views, what are the innovation gaps in this idea of prospecting resources in space? What should the winning team demonstrate?

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Probably the biggest innovation gap would be GROUND TRUTH. There have been a number of remote surveys conducted, either by telescopic efforts, flyby or orbiting spacecraft. A substantial sea-change would be someone connecting these remote-sensing surveys with direct measurement of the resource-material.

In addition to demonstrating the presence of a useful resource, a greater contribution would be the scientific demonstration of conducting the ground truth measurement to the prior remote sensing observation. This would allow validation of these more extensive historical measurements to be more accurately interpreted and leveraged.


We’re wordsmithing what we call the “winning-team-will statement” for this prize: a succinct description of what a competing team would need to do to win.

Here’s the current version, and I’d appreciate your thoughts:
Survey space resources on the moon and demonstrate feasibility for access to a useful mineral.

The next step are drafting the testing and judging criteria for the prize. Here’s what we have so far:

  • Collect Lunar materials and demonstrate the possession of 1 kg of oxygen, in atomic (as O2) or molecular (as H2O) form.
  • Demonstrate the ground truth for the resource detailing likely mineral abundance in relation to an existing or newly-created publicly-available remote sensing dataset.
  • Extra points to the team that obtains the maximum ratio of oxygen collected to landed mass.
  • Identify and characterize the available resources on the moon, prioritizing water, H2, and O2.
  • Assess their volume and accessibility; what metrics should be assessed?
  • Get to and extract X kg (TBD) of at least one of the following resources: water, H2, and O2.
  • Extra points for other resources extracted.
  • Export the resource to Earth.

@interplanetary, @manuel.ntumba, @avi_loeb, @crointel - We would love to hear your feedback on the wining team will statement and testing and judging criteria.

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As the answer to the two questions: In your views, what are the innovation gaps in this idea of prospecting resources in space? What should the winning team demonstrate?

The prize and the winning criteria can be defined based on the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS) Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities and the Space resources activities from the perspective of sustainability: legal aspects.

  1. Outer space as ‘province of all mankind’ - how many will benefit from the space resource.
  2. Protection of space environment
  3. Space legislation protecting long-term sustainability in outer space
  4. Specific space resources legislation

@Shashi @LBakerLyon

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Feedback on the winning team statement, testing and judging criteria:

Regarding the 3 last criteria, there could be some complications with the legislation to extract and export the lunar resources, in reference to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS)’ STATUS OF INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS RELATING TO ACTIVITIES IN OUTER SPACE as at 1 JANUARY 2020 and the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS)’ The Hague Space Resources Governance Working Group: Information provided by the Netherlands published in 2018. Probably not every competing team could get the legislation ready, which could affect their result even if they had the best technology. A potential solution would be that XPrize could get the legislation ready for all the competing teams so that the teams can focus on their technology and their mission operations for the prize.

@Shashi @LBakerLyon

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Hi @AngeloVermeulen and @Jekan - Given your expertise in space exploration, it would be helpful if you could provide feedback on this prize metrics.

Specially, what are some gaps in the testing, if any? also, what might be missing that would be a meaningful demonstration for the target user and investors?

Hi @ncabrol and @rorosei - We are designing a prize around Prospecting Resources in Space. It would be nice to have your feedback on the prize metrics. Are we missing anything?

Hi @Shashi - Lunar mining is not a field in which I have a specific knowledge, so my comments will be of a more general nature.

If you are looking for water as a resource, I assume it will be for In-Situ Resources Utilization (ISRU), as it will be way too expensive to carry it from Earth. Water ice is meant to be used as fuel, once the molecule is dissociated into O2 and H2, and of course as an essential resource for life support.

For this reason, water ice extraction and delivery of resources to Earth do not seem to belong together, unless one wants to widen the scope of the prize to include all main technologies foreseen for human colonization and exploitation of the Moon.

Assessing the presence, accessibility and abundance of water ice and other resources at a global scale has been so far, and will likely remain, the domain of remote sensing from orbit, requiring an array of different sensors depending on the resource being prospected for. Neutron and gamma ray spectroscopy or radar subsurface sounding seem to me the measurement techniques of choice for H2O ice.

Until now, remote sensing from orbit has been performed through probes built and operated for science rather than resource mapping. Changing this would require a private investor to commit to the development of a carefully designed spacecraft supported by an expert science team similar to the ones supporting NASA missions, and it seems to me that such an endeavour lies outside the scope of the prize.

To summarize, the wording of the criteria for the prize do not seem entirely self-consistent to me, as I am not able to envision, perhaps due to ignorance, how the different goals listed in the statement (which individually are sensible) can be achieved together in a single project.

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Based on the advice of our founder and chairman, Peter Diamandis and other experts we have changed the focus of this prize.

Following is the revised wining-team-will-statement:
Be the first to autonomously obtain a 10 grams sample of H2O 3m below the moon surface, with the highest weight-percentage ratio measurement.

Prize Purse: $100M

Timeline: 5 years

Following is a revised draft testing and judging criteria for this prize:

  • On the moon, find water

  • Ground truth on-site: assess volume and accessibility, including temperature, location, depth to drill, concentration, density, consistency, and other mechanical properties.

    • Providing a 3D assessment of the environment.
  • Extract a 10 gram sample of H2O.

  • Verify:

    • Analyze the resource in-situ.
    • Verification method and third party verification:
      • The verification method will be developed in consultation with expert advisors, including terrestrial mining parties.
      • The method will be demonstrated and validated pre-launch by direct measurement of XPrize-supplied H2O samples using flight hardware or flight-surrogate hardware measurement device
      • and verified by a third party.
  • Impact activity:

    • Capitalizing on current efforts by NASA to establish mineral rights in space vis-a-vis generic regolith ownership transfer.
    • XPRIZE could up the “contract value”, creating the motivation to collect a sample with resources in it, and then also proving that those resources can be extracted.

@manuel.ntumba, @rorosei, @derleth, @mashizaq - We would love to have your feedback on the revised wining-team-will-statement, prize purse, timeline and the testing and judging criteria.

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Hi @pmetzger, @SynergyKevin and @Jekan - What are your thoughts and feedback on the revised wining-team-will-statement, prize purse, timeline and the testing and judging criteria of XPRIZE Lunar Water.

Hi @Shashi,

I like the new wording of the statement: it’s going to be a tough but exciting challenge!

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This is a well constructed challenge. The description may benefit from an introduction about how Space exploration, not to mention Moon colonization, can be transformed if the challenge were to result in breakthrough results. Perhaps I missed this on the thread, but has there been consideration of linking this with a challenge about generating water on Mars?

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Winning Team Will Statement: Obtain a 10g sample of H2O, at least 3m below the surface of the Moon, with the highest weight-percentage concentration.

Prize Purse: $100M

Timeline: ≤5 years

Testing & Judging:

  • Find water on the Moon, at least 3m below the surface
  • Ground truth on-site: assess volume, quality, and accessibility, and provide a 3D assessment of the environment
  • Extract a 10g sample of H2O (water)
  • Verify and analyze the resource in-situ
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Hi @interplanetary, @manuel.ntumba, @rorosei, @SpacePlaceCanada - Thank you for your inputs and feedback. Above is the final version of this prize sketch.

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Great prize! Congratulations!

Thank you so much for your invitation to contribute to the design of the space-related prizes of the XPRIZE 2021 and the Global Visioneering Program. It was great collaborating with you all!

@Shashi, @NickOttens, @Eti, @LBakerLyon