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Robotic Space Mining’s ‘World Cup’ Here Next Week

July 17, 2014, 7:21 AM HST (Updated July 17, 2014, 9:32 AM)
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Top US robotics teams from around the country will be competing in the first “World Cup” of Robotic Space Mining competition being held on the Big Island, July 21-25.

Seven teams in all, each with a sophisticated spacecraft, will be going head-to-head at the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems‘ (PISCES) Mars and lunar analogue test site, a NASA-proven arena on the Big Island that provides a high-fidelity simulated martian environment, said a PISCES release.

Spectators will not be allowed at the test site during the competition due to the risks associated with the rugged terrain on Mauna Kea, but the public may watch from “Mission Control” at the Gemini Observatory Remote Control Room in Hilo, a PISCES release said.

PISCES is a state-funded space exploration research and training facility which sponsors the PISCES International Robotic Space Mining competition, or PRISM 2014.

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Teams are coming from the University of Alabama, Florida Institute of Technology, Kapiolani Community College, Iowa State University of Science and Technology, University of New Hampshire, University of West Virginia and University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

International teams were unable to attend this first event but are planning to attend PRISM 2015, said PISCES spokeswoman Mari-Ela David Chock.

PRISM 2014 evolved from the annual NASA Robotic Mining Competition at Kennedy Space Center, a college-level engineering challenge in which US teams design, build, and dig with a robot that can navigate, collect and deposit regolith, or martian dirt, in a bin.

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PISCES has participated in RMC as an invited judge in past years and is now taking the competition to the next level with PRISM, which is open to college teams world-wide, Chock said.

Top RMC teams will take their proven designs and place their robotic mining machines in the more realistic and rugged environment of PISCES’ NASA-proven high-fidelity Mars and Lunar Analogue Test Site. The intent is to encourage universities to develop innovative concepts that could be applied to real-world robotic space excavation technologies.

Through PRISM, PISCES also intends to spur interest and growth in college-level robotics on the Big Island at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and throughout the State of Hawaii.

For more information, contact PISCES Test Logistics/EPO Manager John Hamilton at jch@hawaii.edu.

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