NASA-CSA Webinar 1: Challenge Informational Webinar
Questions and Answers
1. What are the specific eligibility requirements for teams?
Eligibility requirements for U.S., Canadian and non-Canadian International teams can be found on the challenge website (deepspacefoodchallenge.org). Specific questions about a team or individual’s eligibility can be sent to:
● US / International questions: email@example.com
● Canadian participant questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Is there a limit to the number of individuals that can be on a team?
There is no limit to how many people can be on a team. However, for U.S. and non-Canadian International teams, each team member must meet the eligibility requirements as stated in the rules.
3. Can individuals submit a design?
For U.S. and non-Canadian International teams, yes, as long as the eligibility requirements are met, an individual can participate in the challenge and win a prize.
For Canadian teams, individuals or groups of individuals are encouraged to submit an application to the Challenge, but in order to be eligible to receive prizes, they will be required to establish a Canadian legal entity (such as a corporation or a not-for-profit organization) capable of entering into binding agreements in Canada.
4. Can you be a part of multiple teams?
Yes, as long as the eligibility requirements are met, you can be a member of multiple teams. However, per the rules, you may only compete in one region: U.S., Canada, or non-Canadian International.
5. Must consultants also be listed as part of the team?
No, consultants do not have to be registered as a member of the team. It is up to the teams to decide who should be a registered team member, and who is considered a consultant.
6. What is the age requirement for the challenge?
For U.S. teams, In order to be eligible to receive a prize, all registered team members must be over the age of 18.
For Canadian teams, there is no age requirement to apply, but in order to be eligible to receive prizes, participants will be required to establish a Canadian legal entity capable of entering into binding agreements in Canada.
7. If a team member is an employee of a NASA Center, is that team member ineligible to participate?
U.S. government employees may enter the competition or be members of a prize-eligible team as long as they are not acting within the scope of their Federal employment, and they rely on no facilities, access, personnel, knowledge or other resources that are available to them as a result of their employment. The exception would be if those resources are available to all other participants on an equal basis. Any Federal employee that wants to participate in the challenge should obtain prior written approval from their cognizant ethics officer stating that such participation does not violate federal personnel laws or applicable agency policy. A copy of this approval to participate in the Challenge should be provided to the Methuselah Foundation with the team’s registration.
8. If I am a U.S. citizen located in another country, can I still participate and be eligible to win a prize from NASA?
U.S. citizens do not have to be physically located in the United States in order to be eligible to win a prize from NASA. However, all other eligibility criteria must be met, including the restriction around bilateral involvement with China (Public Law 116-6, Section 530).
9. Is a Hong Kong entity allowed to enter the challenge?
An entity in Hong Kong falls under Public Law 116-6, Section 530 which prohibits NASA from participating, collaborating or coordinating bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned entity.
10. Can entities that receive federal grants into a private, for-profit business participate in this competition?
No U.S. government funds may be used to participate in the Challenge. This includes any U.S. Government organization or organization principally or substantially funded by the Federal Government, including Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, Government-owned, contractor operated (GOCO) facilities, and University Affiliated Research Centers.
11. I am a U.S. citizen, can my team members be different nationalities?
Yes, U.S. Team Leaders can have international team members. However, per the rules, in order to be eligible to receive a prize from NASA, foreign nationals that are registered team members must meet the eligibility requirements:
The foreign national team members must sign and deliver a disclosure (provided by Methuselah Foundation) stating their citizenship and acknowledging they are not eligible to win a prize from NASA, AND
- The foreign national is an employee of an otherwise eligible U.S. entity participating in the Challenge,
- The foreign national is an owner of such entity, so long as foreign citizens own less than 50% of the interests in the entity,
- The foreign national is a contractor under written contract to such entity, OR
- The foreign national is a full time student, during the time of the Challenge, of an otherwise eligible entity which is an accredited institution of higher learning, AND the student is during the Challenge in the United States on a valid student visa and is otherwise in compliance with all local, state, and federal laws and regulations regarding the sale and export of technology.
12. Is a Public Land-Grant Institute considered a U.S. entity incorporated in the U.S.?
In order to be eligible to compete as a U.S. entity, the Team Leader for the proposed entity will need to show proof that the Public Land-Grant Institute is incorporated in and maintains a primary place of business in the United States.
13. Can a team be made up of a professor and students?
Yes, as long as the registered team members meet the eligibility requirements as stated in the rules. It is up to the Team Leader to understand the permissions needed to participate on behalf of the University.
14. Can International teams participate in Phase 2 if they win the recognition prize?
Should Phase 2 open, all Teams selected as winners and/or awarded a prize purse in Phase 1 will also be invited to advance to Phase 2. Additional Teams (whether they participated in Phase 1 or not) may also be able to register to participate in Phase 2 once it opens.
15. Is it possible for International teams to win a prize from NASA or CSA?
International teams that meet the eligibility requirements to participate will compete for recognition from NASA and CSA as a challenge winner. Teams should refer to the NASA Rules Document for the specific eligibility requirements to participate.
16. I am a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen currently residing in Canada. Which region should I compete under?
It is up to the team to decide which region to compete under.
17. If I am not a Canadian citizen, but am living in Canada with temporary residence status, am I eligible to compete for the Canadian prize?
Yes, individuals based in Canada are eligible applicants, regardless of nationality. However, they will need to meet the requirement of setting up a Canadian legal entity capable of entering into binding agreements in Canada, in order to be eligible to receive prizes. More information can be found in ‘Important Resources’ on the Impact Canada website.
18. If we are a team operating out of a Canadian University, do we still need to register as a business/non-profit to receive a prize from CSA?
Teams will need to provide the name of the eligible organization, in order to receive prizes. Teams can apply in the name of the University they are affiliated with, provided the Duly Authorized Representative of the university (/Canadian legal entity) is supportive of the application. Note that the Duly Authorized Representative, if applicable, of the Canadian legal entity will be signing the grant agreement. Teams can also create their own legal identity for the purpose of the Challenge. More information can be found in Section 3 and Section 4.2 of the Applicant Guide.
PROCESS AND SUBMISSION
19. How do I apply to the challenge?
For U.S. and non-Canadian International teams, please visit https://www.deepspacefoodchallenge.org/register to begin the registration process.
For Canadian teams, registration is not required, but suggested in order for teams to receive updates on challenge events. The registration form for Canadian teams can be found here. Teams can submit their designs anytime before the July 30th deadline.
20. Who do I contact if I have a question about submitting registration?
Specific questions about registration should be sent to:
- US / International questions: email@example.com
- Canadian participant questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
21. Once a team has submitted their registration, how long will it take until the registration is confirmed?
For U.S. and non-Canadian International teams, the first step in registering is to complete and submit the intake form on the website (https://www.deepspacefoodchallenge.org/register). A representative from the Methuselah Foundation will contact you via email with submission details for proof of eligibility to participate and win a prize from NASA. Once the Team Leader has submitted the required information, the Methuselah Foundation will verify eligibility and contact the Team Leader within 5 business days.
22. Should I send hard copies of the required paperwork to the Methuselah Foundation in addition to submitting scanned copies?
No, teams are not required to submit hard copies of the completed forms, only electronic copies.
23. Will the teams’ designs be made public?
No public release of information regarding the specifics of a team’s technical approach will be made without the expressed permission of the Team Leader.
24. If a submission includes parts that are patented but unpublished by various companies, will this hamper the usability of the system, or will one of the foundations deal with this?
Teams are able to use any reference materials to design their proposed food production system as long it is properly referenced and the IP is disclosed. Additionally, if a team uses unpublished work or patents, they must obtain permission that can be submitted to the Challenge Administrators as requested. For example: "internal communication with the author of the unpublished work" or "with the permission from the author of the unpublished work" etc.
25. Is it possible to include in our system/project just vegetables and fruits, and then associate with another team who can provide other types of foods?
Each submission will be evaluated separately.
26. Can teams only enter one design?
Teams may enter more than one design. However, teams may only register to compete in one region (U.S., Canada, or non-Canadian International).
27. The rules state that each team must have liability insurance, is there someone who could give more information on easily obtaining an acceptable?
For U.S. and non-Canadian International teams, the U.S. Government requires all individuals and entities involved in challenges of this type to have adequate insurance coverage. While it is unlikely that an incident resulting in injury will occur during this Challenge, competitors are obligated to abide by existing U.S. Government guidelines. Teams are free to submit whatever they feel will demonstrate the $5,000 USD insurance coverage and the document will be reviewed for compliance with the rules.
28. What is the rationale behind the challenge duration?
During the challenge development process, the timeline was discussed and agreed upon by contributing Subject Matter Experts from both NASA and CSA. NASA also asked the public for feedback on the initial challenge concept including the timeline through a Request for Information (RFI). The duration of the Phase 1 design will last approximately six (6) months, which is reflective of both internal expertise and feedback received from RFI respondents.
29. Could you please describe the TRL required in more detail? Is this just a paper exercise, or is any prototyping required?
Yes, the requirement for Phase 1 of the challenge is for teams to submit their design for a novel food production technology concept in a paper format (aka submission). The submission should provide a detailed explanation of how the design meets the challenge goals and performance criteria. Phase 2 would require teams to build a food production technology prototype equivalent to a TRL 4. For U.S. and non-Canadian International teams, the initiation of Phase 2 is contingent on the emergence of promising submissions in Phase 1 that show a viable approach to achieving the challenge goals.
30. Approximately how many pages are being looked for with the design report?
All Teams will provide the required information via the online application form. The form will prompt you to provide inputs for each of the criteria except for Scientific & Technical Merit and Feasibility of Design, which will be evaluated based on your overall submission. To see details about character limits, please see the copy of the application form (for reference only).
31. For the volume constraint, is this for the entire system, or for the individual parts needed to build the system?
The food production technology should fit within the stated volume constraint. This constraint does not include inputs to the food system, or outputs from the food system. If there are multiple parts or pieces to the food production technology, the combined total should not exceed the stated volume constraint.
32. Should teams maximize all the constraints?
Teams are not required to maximize all the constraints. Teams should design the food production technology they think provides the best solution to meet the challenge goals.
33. For the volume constraint, is there a particular form factor for that volume?
No, there is not a specific form factor for this phase. Eventually systems may need to be capable of fitting through the hatch of a spacecraft. For informational purposes only, the size of hatch opening of the International Docking System is approximately 800mm (~31.5 US-inches).
34. Are there any specific system integration requirements that should be considered? For example incoming power, water supply, water quantity, those types of things?
Certainly there will be actual interface requirements on a spacecraft, but for this phase where we're trying to capture a wide range of creative ideas from everyone who's participating, just defining what those resource needs are for your technology or your approach to food production is what we're looking for. We're not going to saddle you with its particular AC or DC voltage that can all be worked out as the technologies advance.
35. What type of voltage should be considered, AC or DC?
What's really important is the amount of energy the proposed food production system needs. When a solution moves towards systems for spaceflight, pending whatever the spacecraft interfaces are, NASA will help with that type of adaptation. For the purposes of the Phase 1 submission, teams need to be clear on defining how much power, or energy the food production technology will use. Since we want this to be useful on Earth, having teams demonstrate at terrestrial voltages is very useful. When we go to Mars, or to a planetary surface, or for a long-term mission the voltage could be different. Space Station uses a lot of 120 volt DC, which is not very common on Earth, and NASA has a standard way of converting that down to allow the use of commercially available hardware.
36. There's a lot of allergies, food restrictions, insulin resistance, and food sensitivities. Should those types of things be taken into consideration when teams are designing their food production system? Or should teams design using the standards that are in the documents provided in the rules?
Teams should use the standards in the documents provided. We don't know who will get selected for these missions and these systems will be incredibly limited. So in general, we don't have a lot of ability to support things like food allergens. We have to send healthy crews on these missions. Potentially some of these areas could help with those things in the future, but the goal is to focus on food systems that are easy to use. They need to use few resources and be able to provide acceptable, diverse, and nutritious food.
37. Has research shown that the values for the human body’s daily nutritional requirements change for those living in orbit…so on ISS for an extended period? And if so, can the findings easily be extrapolated and applied to a theoretical long term mission?
There are some great scientific reviews of what we've learned from the International Space Station, about space nutrition needs and I really urge you to go look at those. Those were part of the development of the challenge when we're challenging you and setting the requirements for what a nutritious food system should look like. So, look at those in the challenge and that will really help you know the state of the art today. When we think about crew members going in deep space that means beyond just low Earth orbit like our experiences for ISS, we suspect there will be some additional aspects of nutrition that could matter, especially because the Deep Space radiation environment is more severe than the radiation environment in low Earth orbit on the ISS. So that's one reason you, that you need to think about stability because that radiation environment could be challenging for certain nutrients that are not stable over a long time. It's also a reason to think about things like antioxidants which help us to counteract free radicals or things like that that that exists in our body so that it's a great area there's good review papers out there and go take a look at those resources and hopefully that will help inspire some of your thinking about this challenge.
38. According to the operational constraints in the constraints table, all solutions should be designed for Earth gravity. Aren't the solutions supposed to be designed for space or microgravity? Could you expand on the reason for this constraint a little bit?
Certainly we want to use these in partial gravity, on a planetary surface, or in microgravity. But testing for that is very challenging and expensive and beyond what we could ask for in this phase of the project. We really need the basics demonstrated here on Earth, and that's why we limited it to Earth gravity demonstration. If teams can extrapolate how this would apply to microgravity or partial gravity that'd be great, but is not necessary. 1g is the requirement.
39. Should the food production system be designed for flight or the lunar surface or the Martian surface?
We are only asking you to design your systems for the earth bound environment. NASA and CSA are interested in flexible and modular food production technologies that adapt to changing needs and mission architectures. The intent is to use modular and flexible technologies and build them into systems that meet the unique needs of each mission type or specific mission. The Deep Space Food Challenge provides a set of constraints and asks Teams to produce the best food production technology they can within those constraints. The scoring criteria recognizes that a combination of technologies will be used together in an overall food system, and rewards those technologies (submissions) that are likely to contribute to multiple mission scenarios.
40. In the documentation for the rules, it says that there are no pathogens allowed or microbes. So for these purposes do you consider all microbes to be pathogens? Could a team use fermentation techniques, or yeast or mushrooms, for example?
We need to understand how you're going to deal with the safety of these products so it should say that there are no pathogens. Beyond that we need to understand how you would handle them; ensuring that the system will be safe, and it will produce a safe food product. Note that the instructions for submission require that teams address any pathogens that exist. If teams do not address the pathogen, they will receive a zero for that scoring category.
41. How important will the potential for technology transfer for Earth applications be in the solutions evaluation?
In the scoring rubric provided in the NASA rules document and CSA applicant guide, Terrestrial Potential accounts for 15 points out of the total 100 points for the Design Report.
42. Are you interested in space food technology that does not get prepared on board, but is rather all prepared on earth before the space mission and has a shelf life for the duration of the flight for three years? But it does have all the necessary nutrients and doesn't take up a lot of room. Is that of interest?
Any food system that meets the requirements is a candidate. The other side of this is that the judges will be looking at resources. So the candidates that rise to the top will be those that meet the requirements and also succeed resource wise against the other potential candidates. Ultimately the goal is to find a food system that is safe, nutritious, acceptable, provides variety, and fits within the resources. And what that's going to end up looking like could be a variety of things. It could be something produced on the ground or on the mission.
43. Are their storage space requirements for the food output?
We're looking for things that can be produced and consumed relatively quickly. Not looking to grow a lot of wheat for example, and then store that. The focus of this challenge is for ready-to-eat or a short period of storage and then to eat. One of the reasons we laid out the constraints that you see is because of the volume, mass, and logistic constraints. It is unlikely that a solution that requires a lot of storage is going to work over the long term because of volume and stability issues. The reason that we are having this challenge is because meeting the logistics and the stability needs all at once is really challenging.
44. Should groups plan their system around specific crops, or leave it open for future development?
We’re not just looking for crops as a potential solution. Not that we're excluding crops, but just keep in mind, this isn't based on specific crop systems. When it comes to the type of crops, nutritional content and palatability are important. We are looking for variety so factor in the ease of growth, the duration, so that we can make sure we have continuous supplies of food. Things that take longer to grow might be more challenging. Don’t limit yourself too much but things that require less processing and preparation post-harvest are probably to your advantage because of factors like crew time, and vehicle infrastructure.
45. Should teams design for a specific environment? For example, should design specifically for Mars, or food scarce regions on earth?
This is called the Deep Space food Challenge for various reasons. We talked about the locations, being microgravity, lunar surface, Martian surface or another planetary surface so no we should not constrain we just are looking for innovative ideas. But at the same time not losing sight of how this could be beneficial here, terrestrially with respect to all the constraints that we talked about in terms of low power and low waste and low inputs. Any solution that's innovative fits the bill. Additionally, we've always used the terminology, if you can do it in space or rise to the challenge of doing it in space, you will be able to do it in the harsh environment of, for example, the Canadian High Arctic. So given the nature of the challenge I would say the space application, knowing full well it will be applicable to the harsh environments on Earth.
46. Is radiation a significant factor for us to consider in the design of our food system? If so, can you share what research NASA/CSA has on that?
For purposes of this challenge the effects of radiation on the food production system do not need to be considered. The impact of the deep space radiation environment on food, microgranism, and multicellular organisms is an area of active research in the space community.
47. What is the current issue with growing using the pillow method as seen aboard the ISS?
Growing plants in the current pillows offer many challenges. The major problem is that the pillows are not reusable and they are heavy for what they do. They are filled with a calcined clay material and often have slow release fertilizer pellets mixed in. The pillows are well sealed to keep the substrate from leaking out and becoming a small particle risk for the astronauts. Since we don’t have a way to reuse them in space, they represent a large resource loss when they are discarded. Even on Earth it is easier to make new ones then to try to refurbish the soil and reuse them.
48. What (if any) cooking equipment will be included as default on deep space shuttles? Can a designed product simply produce fresh produce/food product? Or must it also account for cooking/preparation?
All preparation and processing will be considered under the Acceptability scoring category.
- Acceptability of the food production process
- Teams will describe the operations processes and procedures, including (but not limited to) how a person will set up and use the solution
- Operational footprint (i.e., how much space is needed for the solution and its related processes?)
- Food production technology set up
- Food production cycle, including steps to produce food products
- Food handling, processing procedures and collection of food products
- Shutdown, cleaning, and/or stowage procedure(s)
- An estimate of the overall crew time to operate and maintain the technology ○ Teams must provide an assessment (using industry standards and/or existing research) that their technology processes are likely to be user friendly and acceptable to crew.
- NOTE: The process must be something crew members could be expected to accomplish in a reasonable amount of time, on a daily basis in a small kitchen-like space after a busy workday.
- Target: Teams should consider the current target for Astronauts is 1 hour per meal (30 minutes for preparation, 30 minutes for the meal itself).
- Acceptability of the food production process
49. What's the scope for a circular food system from a risk perspective?
There are two challenges that need to be overcome. Neither is insurmountable, but care must be given to how you would overcome them. The first is “acceptability.” People don’t want to deal with stuff that is “gross.” Nonetheless, this challenge is largely overcome technologically on the ISS in that they recycle almost all of the water multiple times leading to the phrase, “today’s coffee is tomorrow’s coffee.” You will need to explain how your solution is acceptable. The second challenge is around pathogens. You will need to make it clear how you will keep viruses, bacteria, and fungi as well as other potentially toxic compounds from making their way all the way through the food system to then re-infect or harm other crew members. Safety is paramount.
50. Does the proposal need to have a list of the specific food it is designed for or it should be more like a general idea for macronutrients?
As part of the design report, teams will describe the outputs exiting the food production technology which includes the food products. Additionally, teams will provide the nutritional potential of the food produced.
51. Outside of the general food consumed, is there a back up plan in case there is a food integrity issue or the basic food supplied is compromised? In other words, are we looking back up plans as well if the initial food plans are to fail? Ex: Powdered food as a backup with substantial nutrient dense alternatives?
For purposes of this phase of the challenge, backup food systems do not need to be proposed. However, how reliable a food production approach may be is considered under the ‘reliability / stability’ scoring criteria (10%).
52. What are the current standards for the food system as far as nutrition provided to the crew and macronutrient and micronutrient standards?
Information on the current standards for food systems as they related to the challenge targets can be found in NASA-STD-3001 (https://www.nasa.gov/hhp/standards).
53. Are there specific technologies or approaches that are in or out of scope? Can teams find what exists in the food supply for the crew, as well as the shelf life for existing food and any food already being grown in space?
Teams may design any food production technology that meets the goals of the Challenge within the given constraints and the performance criteria. Information describing current food system capabilities is provided in the Reference Materials section of the NASA rules document and on the Canadian challenge website (under “Important Resources”). This will serve as a baseline reference for Teams, to help them envision whether their food production technology could offer an improvement to the current prepackaged food system. Examples of possible opportunity areas for new food production technologies are also included in the Reference Materials section of the NASA rules document.
54. In order for the body to digest most of the food we will need to have the right bacteria. Are probiotic (liquid) foods in scope?
Right now probiotics are not approved for spaceflight because they don't meet the spaceflight micro requirements. For future missions, it will be important for the foods that the crew eats to provide the appropriate nutrition to support a healthy gut. Probiotics on their own are not a solution, but integrated as part of a food production system could be of interest.
55. Are health benefits (i.e. microbiome enrichment, antioxidants) for the astronauts beyond fulfilling nutritional needs considered for the judging process?
The scoring category for Resource Inputs & Outputs asks teams to provide the nutritional potential of the food produced with their technologies. The targets are:
- Maximum macronutrients supplied, as a percentage of a crew member's complete dietary needs
- Maximum micronutrients supplied, as a percentage of a crew member's complete dietary needs
- Maximum variety of nutrients supplied
56. What are some of the ideas/projects/proposals that have been considered but proven not efficient enough for the mission?
There currently are no solutions for in-space food production that have been proven efficient enough at a sufficient scale. Hence, the reason for this challenge.
57. Is there any specific budget for the development of the technology?
Designs submitted in Phase 1 are not asked to consider or provide a budget. Future Phases, should they be initiated, may ask teams to provide a vision for future commercialization of the technology which may include a business plan.
58. Would it be advantageous to make use of in-situ resources such as atmosphere or regolith for a growth medium?
In-situ derived resources still require significant energy to obtain. Bringing regolith into the habitat and using it for a growth media has unknown and uncharacterized risks to human health. For purposes of this phase of the challenge, defining the required resources (independent of their origin) is all that is required. Also, for purposes of this challenge it should be assumed regolith is not available for a growth media. Additionally one application for the technology might be a transit vehicle to Mars where no other resources are available during the trip. Ultimately the goal is to find a food system that is safe, nutritious, acceptable, provides variety, and fits within the resources.
59. Is this challenge solely looking for food production solutions, and not food processing capabilities? i.e. Is there interest in a design that can cook or do post-harvest processing?
The Deep Space Food Challenge is seeking food production technologies. If the system can also process and prepare the food that is a benefit, but the major requirement is that the system produces food.