Image: Moon regolith
CSEWI
An artist's interpretation of autonomous robots digging through regolith on the Moon's surface.
updated 5/14/2007 2:32:31 AM ET 2007-05-14T06:32:31

Four teams and some strange machines competed for a quarter of a million dollars from NASA, but all walked away empty-handed.

NASA’s Regolith Excavation Challenge invited teams to build machines for digging mock moon dirt, or regolith, in a competition held in a 1-ton sandbox on Saturday.

All the teams fell well short of the winning requirement of 330 pounds (150 kilograms) of regolith deposited in a container in 30 minutes, and no one claimed the $250,000 purse.

An excavator built by Technology Ranch of Pismo Beach did the best, collecting just over 143 pounds (65 kilograms) in half an hour. All the other machines broke down while digging.

The other three teams were from Berkley, Mich.; Rolla, Mo.; and Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

The prize rolls over to next year’s competition, which will be worth $750,000.

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