FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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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.
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.
The forum competition is judged by a subset of the RASC-AL Steering Committee. The exact make up is dependent upon scheduling and availability.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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?
The 2017 RASC-AL Forum will be held May 31-June 2, 2017 in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Each team will receive a monetary award to facilitate full participation in the 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.
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.
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.
One faculty advisor can represent multiple teams from the same university.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Currently “budgeted” missions can be leveraged and you can leverage their findings
The initial intent would be to bring back soil/regolith/ice samples obtained from rovers on the lunar surface from the lunar surface to the gateway, then from the gateway to Earth via the Orion spacecraft for scientific analysis. If a larger transfer capability were developed, one could explore the idea of sending lunar derived propellants or water if it made economic sense or as a technology demonstrator. A larger capability (block 2) could also be used to deploy rovers/infrastructure/spare parts to the lunar surface. So the focus of the block 1 capability is sample return, block 2 is up to you, but should address a need that cannot be addressed better by some other solution.
Heritage/SOA human spaceflight systems typically have the following characteristics that need to be improved drastically to enable sustainable Mars missions:
- System reliability: If a critical failure were to occur on the ISS, the crew can abort the mission and return back to Earth – not an option on a Mars mission
System maintainability: Typically humans spend most of their mission time maintaining the spacecraft, this will not be possible on a Mars mission where the transport is in orbit and the crew is on the surface. Spare parts also make the largest portion of the logistics for a crewed Mars mission (larger than crew consumables) so significant improvements in commonality, board level repair and inset part manufacturing will be required.
- Autonomy: Current human missions have thousands of people back on Earth supporting them. This is both a cost driver and a potential risk due to communication delays between Earth and Mars. The transport needs to be operated completely independent from ground control on Earth, and the vehicle needs to be smart enough to detect impending problems before they manifest them selves
- Affordability: The current NASA approach spares no cost when it comes to keeping the crew safe and assuring mission success. New programmatic and procurement practices need to be implemented that maintains the level of safety and mission success while addressing affordability.
- Architecture: Previous Mars mission architectures have tried to launch a large vehicle in a few heavy lift launches to minimize the complexity of in-space operations at the expense of needing those same heavy lift vehicles. This causes issues with respect to affordability as well as launch sequencing, which creates schedule risk that can further compound the affordability problem.