Four days ’til Mars

Are you ready for what comes after the giant leap? NASA’s Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline invites you to join us on September 23 for the launch of the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge!


Monday, September 23
1 p.m. Pacific Time

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Online — The launch will be via Zoom meeting. Details below.


NESSP’s previous project, the Apollo Next Giant Leap Student Challenge, gave students the opportunity to recreate Apollo 11’s moon landing using drones and robots. In total, more than 3,000 students participated in the challenge, with the top teams from 15 hubs across the U.S. receiving trips either to Johnson Space Center or Goddard Space Flight Center. The challenge also engaged educators in professional development, with over 300 educators receiving training through the program.

The ROADS on Mars challenge aims to provide similar hands-on experiences for students and educators, this time following in the steps of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Student teams will, again, pilot a drone to land on the surface — in the Jezero crater on Mars, just as the rover will — and will then use a LEGO Mindstorms robot to navigate the surface and complete science objectives. ROADS stands for “rover observation and drone survey,” which are key components of the Mars challenge.

But ROADS on Mars also introduces several mini-challenges that will incorporate biological and geological concepts. Mars 2020 will be searching Mars for signs of past life, and student teams will likewise explore their local environments to identify biosignatures. Teams will also investigate both how craters are formed and the effects of erosion on a landscape.

The challenge will culminate in final events across the U.S. in the spring. Top teams will win trips to Kennedy Space Center to watch the launch of Mars 2020 in the summer!

Joining us for the ROADS launch

The NESSP staff will convene a meeting via Zoom, an online video conferencing service. Staff will present an overview of the challenge as well as brief demonstrations. There will be Q&A at the end. Budget approximately one hour to attend this virtual launch, especially if you’d like to be sure your questions are answered. A video recording of the Zoom meeting will be available later in the week.

You can join the meeting either via the Zoom service or by simply calling in on the phone.

Joining online

Joining via phone

+1-669-900-6833,,216199324# US (San Jose)
+1-646-876-9923,,216199324# US (New York)

ROADS details and registration

The full challenge manual will be available on our website the day of the launch. Registration for the challenge will also open the day of the launch.


If you have questions about the launch, please contact Christina Jarvis at .

Resources for educators

Demo videos for some aspects of the challenge are available on our YouTube channel:

More resources for educators will be available via Google Drive after the launch. To be added to our distribution list, please contact Christina Jarvis at