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Physics Students Selected for NASA MINDS Artemis Technology Competition

A team of Physics majors have been selected to compete in the NASA MINDS Artemis Technology Design project as part of current work toward establishing a lunar outpost within the next decade. NASA Minds will provide $1,500 to the team to complete their project, “Development of an autonomous location system for water exploration using ground penetrating radar and triangulation methods.” The Artemis mission is the return of exploration on the surface of the moon, and a pre-curser to sending a settlement of new explorers to Mars.

NASA's Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Innovative New Designs for Space (MINDS) is a multi-semester undergraduate level activity that supports their Artemis mission and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

According to, this isn't a competition but rather a hands-on design to build collegiate learning experiences where students' skills, creativity, and innovation are challenged.

The TLU team's project supports the NASA Artemis mission through developing potential for self-reliant life support in the form of exploring for natural sources of water on the lunar surface, with extensions to doing the same on the surface of Mars. The technology, in the form of autonomous robotic explorers address the need to precisely locate and potential retrieve hidden water resources. Essentially supporting long-term exploration on the moon as a precursor to travel to Mars.

Led by Physics Department Chair Dr. Toni Sauncy, the team submitted a Preliminary Design Review in December 2020 and were recently advanced to the funding phase.

"It is an ambitious project, but it has really energized students in the middle of this challenging year," Sauncy said.

TLU NASA Minds Team Members:

  • Alex Pantoja (Lead) – Sophomore Applied Physics Major
  • Marcela Juarez - Seniors Applied Physics Major
  • Max Schaar – Sophomore Applied Physics Major
  • Simon Carandang - Sophomore Applied Physics
  • Jason Garcia – Freshman Applied Physics
  • Maliqui Moore – Freshman Applied Physics
  • Sophia Sauceda - Freshman Applied Physics Major
  • Sara Krotzer – Sophomore Integrated Science Major

Dr. Sauncy says the students' enthusiasm and resolve about how this team from a smaller liberal arts college could impact essential human survival skills beyond earth is their greatest asset.

According to their proposal, the TLU Physics team "has the capability to provide continuous exploration of water resources that may be hidden in surface features on the lunar surface, and eventually on Mars she said. The autonomous system will search for, locate and potential retrieve hidden water resources for evaluation at a base camp. By efficiently locating water, and doing a preliminary assessment of its potability, the human explorers can attend to other exploration. We are confident that our team can make contributions to the mission by thinking outside the box, while using our basic understanding of the natural world, our growing coding skills, and our developing technological knowledge to push the limits of existing technology. We are perseverant, dedicated, and unyielding in our quest to go beyond our humble situation to change the world. We are an eager group of young scientists, determined to play a small part in the Artemis mission of a lunar outpost. We are confident that our resolve will make us successful."

The team has also begun actively recruiting donors within the rural community of Seguin for support regarding drones, ground vehicles, and electronics. One large company with an industrial facility in Seguin has agreed to provide some support, and the team will also be supported directly and in-kind by the TLU Physics Department.