As our ROADS on Mars Student Challenge nears its spring hub events, we have watched as the COVID-19 outbreak moves across the United States. To make sure all our teams have the chance to complete the final ROADS challenge in a way that keeps everyone safe and healthy while also making sure everyone still has a shot at the top prize, NESSP is transitioning our hub final challenge events to virtual events.
NESSP Director Robert Winglee writes:
Thank you all for participating in the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge. I have watched in awe the postings that are on social media already. Great job everyone! I hope you continue the challenge — and the new challenge that will be announced later this year.
As you are maybe aware, coronavrius is in the U.S. Out of an abundance of caution and to do our part in limiting the spread of the virus, all challenge events for ROADS on Mars Student Challenge will now be virtual. Some of the hubs will just have teams run through the challenge live on streaming video, others will just have you submit your challenge online, and others may be a hybrid of these approaches. Please check our website regularly for updates: nwessp.org/mars
As for the grand prize, we still intend to make the launch of Mars2020 if the coronavirus threat diminishes before the launch. If it does not diminish, winning teams will still have the opportunity to visit a NASA Center at a later time when the coronavirus threat is diminished — so please keep working at the challenge!
All hubs will still hold a (virtual) final challenge event to select their top teams. We will post updated dates and details on how “virtual” will work for each hub as information is available.
Top teams will still receive a grand prize. We will send top teams to Kennedy Space Center for the launch of the Mars2020 / Perseverance rover this summer if travel is safe. If the launch is scrubbed, teams will have the opportunity to visit a NASA Center at a later time.
Exploring space comes with its share of unforeseen complications. Fifty years ago this spring, the crew of Apollo 13 experienced an incident with their craft that caused NASA to scrub that mission’s moon landing. But with all of NASA working together as a team, the three astronauts returned safely to Earth. NESSP is working closely with our challenge hubs to make sure ROADS teams can complete their mission.
We are still excited to see how each team tackles the ROADS challenge — we’re looking forward to exploring Mars with you!