Image courtesy of team co-lead Palak Patel
MIT’s ARTEMIS Steelworks team holds their BIG Picture Award at the BIG Idea Challenge, 2023.
Image courtesy of team co-lead Palak Patel
The team earned the 2023 BIG Picture award for demonstrating technology covering the largest breadth of the lunar ISRU metal production pipeline.

MIT’s ARTEMIS Steelworks Team wins Big Picture award at NASA’s 2023 BIG Idea Challenge

The MIT student team, working with Honeybee Robotics, won the BIG Picture Award at NASA’s 2023 BIG Idea Lunar Forge Challenge for demonstrating technology covering the largest breadth of the lunar In-Situ Resource Utilization ISRU metal production pipeline. Their project, ARTEMIS Steelworks (Advancing Reactor Technologies for Electrolytic Manufacturing of In-situ Steel), demonstrated the production of various alloys of lunar steel using the Molten Regolith Electrolysis (MRE) process. 

This year the competition asked teams to design, develop, and demonstrate technologies that would enable the production of lunar infrastructure from ISRU-derived metals found on the Moon. As finalists, the team designed and prototyped a molten regolith electrolysis reactor and carried out lunar technology demonstrations including small-scale electrolysis tests in a vacuum, electrolysis efficiency improvement, automation, and characterizing the steel alloys produced from lunar regolith simulant similar to what is found at the lunar South pole – the future landing site of Artemis III. Read the team’s technical paper to learn more.

“Launch mass got ya down? Build it here with ARTEMIS Steelworks.” says the MIT Team in their project proposal video.

The ARTEMIS Steelworks team was co-led by Palak Patel (PhD candidate, AeroAstro) and Jose Soto ‘24 (AeroAstro). Teammates included Zachary Adams (PhD candidate, DMSE), Derek Chan ‘27 (AeroAstro), Amber Cooper ‘25 (AeroAstro), Jonatan Fontanez ‘24 (EECS), Laman Jalil (PhD candidate, DMSE), Christopher Kwon (SM candidate, AeroAstro), Kir Latyshev (PhD candidate, AeroAstro), Beverly Ma ‘26 (AeroAstro), Lanie McKinney (PhD candidate, AeroAstro), Cesar Meza ‘25 (AeroAstro), Kristoff Misquitta ‘25 (AeroAstro), Hyein Na (PhD candidate, DMSE), Tom Nguyen ‘25 (AeroAstro), Hezekiah Pendley ‘26 (MechE), Lokesh Sangabattula (PhD candidate, DMSE), Helena Usey ‘27 (MechE), and Alice Zehner ‘25 (DMSE). The team’s advisors include Prof. Jeffrey Hoffman, Prof. Antoine Allanore, Prof. Olivier De Weck, Prof. Martin Culpepper, and George Lordos.

A 3D-printed model of the reactor.
The team 3D-printed a model of their reactor.

“I am very proud of the whole team for this outstanding achievement,” said De Weck. “The BIG Picture award is an excellent recognition, and the results from their work will be carried forward in projects, teaching, and research in several departments. ISRU and making steel on the Moon may seem like science fiction to some, but will become a reality in just a few years.”