NASA, in collaboration with the Florida Space Research Institute (FSRI)has announced a new competition to source oxygen from the moon.

The MoonROx (Moon Regolith Oxygen) competition is just one of NASA's centennial challenges. For this project prize money of $250,000 will go to the first team that can extract breathable oxygen from simulated lunar soil before the prize expires on June 1, 2008.

$quot;Oxygen extraction technologies will be critical for both robotic and human missions to the moon,$quot; said FSRI Executive Director Sam Durrance. $quot;Like other space-focused prize competitions, the MoonROx challenge will encourage a broad community of innovators to develop technologies that expand our capabilities,$quot; he added.

For the MoonROx challenge, teams must develop hardware within mass and power limits that can extract at least five kilograms of breathable oxygen from simulated lunar soil during an eight-hour period. The soil simulant, called JSC-1, is derived from volcanic ash. The oxygen production goals represent technologies that are beyond existing state-of-the-art.

$quot;This is our third prize competition, and the Centennial Challenges program is getting more and more exciting with each new announcement. The innovations from this competition will help support long-duration, human and robotic exploration of the moon and other worlds,$quot; said Brant Sponberg, NASA's Centennial Challenges program manager.