About ROADS on Asteroids

  • Details available: September 2020
  • Team registration opens: October 2020

NESSP has been operating nationwide student challenges for NASA since 2018. Starting with the ANGLeS Challenge, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, we have been working our way across the solar system using ROADS — Rover Observation And Drone Survey.

Our student challenges use ongoing NASA science missions to provide students with hands-on experience in current technologies. The goal is to help students gain a better understanding of the interplay between the science they’re learning in class, exploration of the solar system, and possible next steps toward careers in STEM.

The program is set up as a challenge and not a competition so that students completing any single component will have gained important experience and confidence to help them in their next steps, even if that path is not within the challenge itself. ROADS challenges are not a winner take all competition — our hope is to excite and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

2020–2021 challenge: ROADS on Asteroids

The ROADS on Asteroids challenge spans academic year 2020–2021 (or a summer program in 2021) and focuses on developing and executing a mission to the asteroids — specifically to Vesta in the asteroid belt. Each Mission Objective is designed to involve students in NASA science mission design and execution. The challenge is also aligned with Next Generation Science Standards, creating a fun, hands-on activity that helps students meet many NGSS requirements and thereby helps them to be more successful in their studies.

ROADS on Asteroids takes elements from four current or future missions.

  1. Dawn (mission to Vesta and Ceres)
  2. Hayabusa 2 (mission to Ryugu)
  3. OSIRIS Rex (mission to Bennu)
  4. DART (mission to Didymos)

Images from Dawn will be used for mission planning and to explore how scientists interpret images to understand processes that have occurred (topics covered: ELA, communications, Earth sciences). Concepts from Hayabusa 2 and OSIRIS REx will be used to investigate the importance of taking local samples, how to the interpret the data, and what the data means for both the search for the building blocks of life and robotic exploration (topics covered: astrobiology/biology, programing). Finally, from the Hayabusa 2 and DART missions, the challenge will incorporate the principles involved in impacting a rocky object (topic covered: geology). Complete details on each Mission Objective will be available in autumn 2020.


  • Registration opens — October 2020
  • Challenge ends — April 2021

The complete ROADS on Asteroids challenge timeline will be available in autumn 2020.