Please submit additional questions to rascal@nianet.org.

View the 2017 RASC-AL Q&A Transcript

Who is eligible to participate in RASC-AL?

RASC-AL has graduate and undergraduate competition divisions.
Students studying in any major related to the RASC-AL topics (generally science, medicine, engineering, technology, or mathematics) are most fitted to the challenge.
Students must be enrolled in an accredited U.S.-based university program may participate.
Students and faculty advisors from community colleges are also eligible to participate.
Please visit the Eligibility section on the Competition Basics Page for full eligibility requirements.

NEW THIS YEAR: A team is classified as an “undergraduate team” if the majority of the student members are undergraduate students. Similarly, a team is classified as a “graduate team” if the majority of the student members are graduate students.

Are international students allowed to participate?

Yes, as long as they are affiliated/partnering with a US university. Neither NASA nor NIA provide assistance in matching foreign universities with US-universities. All teams must establish themselves independently.

Who judges the competition?

The forum competition is judged by a subset of the RASC-AL Steering Committee. The exact make up is dependent upon scheduling and availability.

Can multiple teams from the same university submit different proposals to compete in the RASC-AL competition?

Yes, multiple teams from the same university can submit separate proposals for the RASC-AL competition, and multiple teams from the same university may move on to the next round of the competition if their proposals merit selection into the program.

Have any of the past participants been able to successfully translate their RASC-AL experience into a professional interaction with NASA on design projects?


Can team members participate in RASC-AL again for the 2nd or 3rd time if they have previous RASC-AL experiences with a similar topic?

Yes, we will allow team members to participate with previous experiences on the same/similar topic. However, the judges clearly indicated that they do not want to see a “recycling” of ideas from the previous year. They want to see revolutionary, new ideas for that topic. As one Steering Committee said: “After all, it’s not revolutionary if it’s been used before, right?”

Is it possible to bring in additional team members, after the abstract is accepted?

Yes, absolutely. We understand that sometimes things change between the time abstracts were submitted and the time the written report is due. We just ask that you list every person who contributed to your project in the final report.

Is industry collaboration, either formally or informally, allowed?

Yes, industry collaboration is certainly acceptable – and encouraged! The RASC-AL competitions are unique university competitions, because they focus on garnering real ideas and concepts that can be incorporated into NASA Human Exploration Operations planning. RASC-AL teams that perform well are often ones that have true support of their faculty advisors and collaborations with industry. We encourage your team to utilize all of the resources you have at your disposal to submit a top-notch abstract response to one of the four RASC-AL themes.

To what depth should our structural systems be analyzed? How much FEM should we provide with our report?

Detailed FEM is probably not needed unless for some key enabling infrastructure. What do you need to assess to develop accurate technology development road maps and associated costs?

When and where will this year's Forum be held?

The 2017 RASC-AL Forum will be held May 31-June 2, 2017 in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Do I have to cover the costs of participating in RASC-AL?

Each team will receive a monetary award to facilitate full participation in the RASC-AL Forum.

Do I have to attend the entire RASC-AL Forum?

Yes, the expectation is that all RASC-AL participants will be at the Forum for the entire duration. It is so important to the overall competition that the judges have actually incorporated participation in all Forum events as part of the evaluation process – it is part of each team’s overall score.

For 2016 forum planning purposes, all RASC-AL participants need to plan on arriving to the RASC-AL Forum no later than 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21st and remaining through the dinner awards ceremony on Thursday, June 23rd. There will also be an optional early registration and networking event on Monday, June 20th in the evening.

Is the RASC-AL Forum open to the public?

The event in Cocoa Beach is not open to the public. Family/friends, however, are allowed to attend the RASCAL Forum, but only for your team’s specific presentation. The RASC-AL Forum has a very full schedule, and participants are encouraged to take advantage of any free time to develop their network by getting to know their fellow competitors, as well as the guest speakers and NASA and NIA representatives. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to engage in conversations with NASA and industry experts, and many students have received job/internship offers from conversations that took place during these networking times.

Although we certainly welcome family/friends during the presentation, we want the participants to be focused on the RASC-AL Forum activities instead of visiting with their friends and families. Please ask any visitors to be mindful of this if they decide to attend. Please notify Stacy Dees with the names of any friends/family members who will be viewing your presentation.

Why does my advisor have to attend the forum?

One Faculty Advisor is required to attend the Forum with each team, and is a condition for acceptance into the RASC-AL Competition. Advisors can provide guidance and insight into the team's decisions, as well as acting as a primary contact point between the RASC-AL coordinators and the universities.

Teams who do not have a faculty advisor present at the RASC-AL Forum will be disqualified from competing and participation awards will be subject to return to NIA.

My university is sending more than one team to the RASC-AL Forum. Can one faculty advisor serve all the teams, or does each team have to have a separate faculty advisor?

One faculty advisor can represent multiple teams from the same university.

What is the maximum number of students who can participate on a RASC-AL team?

There is no maximum. However, if your team is selected to attend the Forum, we will need to know if you plan to bring more than 12 team members.

Can we have a mixed team consisting of undergraduate and graduate level students?

Yes, there can be a mix of levels within a team. We categorize an “undergraduate team” as one having a majority of team members who are undergraduates. (Similarly, a “graduate team” has a majority of students who are graduate students.)

If a student graduates in December, can they still participate in the competition and attend the forum?

Yes, as long as they were full-time students during the Fall semester when you begin working on the project. If they are an undergraduate moving on to graduate level work, they may still compete as part of an undergraduate team without changing the team's status.

Is more than one faculty advisor per team allowed?


The website indicates that the Technical Paper has to be between 10-15 pages and that references and appendixes do not count towards the page minimum. Does that mean they do count towards the maximum page count or are the still excluded from that as well?

Cover page, Compliance Matrix, and appendices are excluded as a part of your 15 page total limit. They do not count toward the minimum or the maximum page limitations. However, please note that Appendices are to be used ONLY for references.

NEW: Are there specific requirements, guidelines, and/or a rubric that addresses which information should be included in each submission?

There are no specific guidelines or requirements for what you should include in each submission. Just make sure that for all submissions you address all aspects of the theme your team chooses, and understand that the judges will be evaluating the submissions based on the criteria listed on the Requirements & Forms page.

Additionally, final technical papers of past RASC-AL winners are listed in the Archives for reference.

What are the methods that NASA uses for projecting future TRL and tech capabilities, and can we make any similar projections for technologies we incorporate into our design?

NASA uses expert opinion to estimate TRLs and maturation of future capabilities. You are free to make your own projections for technologies available in the future, but you must be able to justify and defend your projections.

May we assume that currently planned missions will happen and that we can use their findings, and what level of flight readiness makes them suitable for consideration? (eg. Lunar Flashlight)

Currently “budgeted” missions can be leveraged and you can leverage their findings

Commercially Habitable LEO / Mars Habitable Module Theme: In respect to the Mars transit portion, we are interpreting that it is to be a manned transit to Mars although it isn't specified directly. Is this a correct interpretation?


Commercially Habitable LEO / Mars Habitable Module Theme: The theme states that an updated module version is to be used on a Mars Transit. Do these updates have to be done on an in-use LEO Module (Converting a LEO module to Transit module during its 15yr lifespan), or is it referring simply to utilizing the same core design while being two separate mission plans and systems (ie. having a LEO module and having a Transit module).

It is referring simply to utilizing the same core design while being two separate mission plans and systems (ie. having a LEO module and having a Transit module).

Is there anything specific that you wanted to see out of the airlock design theme from the competing teams?

It would be valuable for the teams to conceive airlock innovations that could be used not just for the cis-lunar facility, but applied to future human exploration systems such as transit habitats, Mars/lunar surface systems and commercial crew-tended facilities at any location. Light weight and deployable designs that could be accommodated by a range of launch vehicles would also be desirable.

For the Logistics Delivery System, will it need to be cable of transporting this crew or just delivering the supplies to the habitat that the people are on?

The logistics delivery system does not need to be capable of transporting crew, but rather the supplies the crew needs for between a 30 day and 360 day mission.

For the Logistics Delivery System, are there any particular orbits or locations that the ship would go to, also do we plan out trips of varying length or just design the system to be able to carry out a year long mission?

The delivery system should be capable of delivering its payloads to cis-lunar orbits, examples of which include lunar distance retrograde orbit, the L2 Lagrange point, or a near rectilinear orbit. The mission duration of the logistics delivery system itself is up to you; however, it should be capable of delivering sufficient supplies for a crew of four for a 360 days mission.

For the Logistics Delivery System, is there any particular amount of supplies to be transported? Will there be a crew always accompanying the ship or can it perform autonomous missions?

The logistics delivery system can be autonomous; its purpose is to deliver supplies for crew, rather than transport crew itself.

For the Commercially Habitable LEO / Mars Habitable Module: Do we also need to develop a full transfer mission concept, including interplanetary propulsion system to reach/return from Mars

No, you do not need to develop the transfer mission concept. Your focus should be solely on the habitat module and its associated subsystems.

For the Commercially Habitable LEO / Mars Habitable Module: Should the LEO Habitat consist primarily of one module, or is utilizing several acceptable?

It is acceptable to use several modules, but you must be able to justify why you made the design choices you made

For the Commercially Habitable LEO / Mars Habitable Module: Is the design meant to be privately owned with NASA as a tenant, or is NASA meant to own the module in addition to being an anchor tenant?

The station would be privately owned, with NASA paying to have access.

For the Logistics Delivery System: We recognize that re-entry is not a requirement for the delivery system, but is re-entry prohibited?

You may use re-entry; however, if you do so, you should perform some analysis as to how you will accomplish the re-entry of the logistics system (i.e. where will the propulsion come from to ensure it re-enters Earth's atmosphere).