Registration Is Now Open for the 2024 Mars Innovation Challenge

Extended Submission Deadline is April 12, 2024 23:59/11:59pm UTC

The ExploreMars.Org Mars Innovation Challenge Student Design Competition is a unique platform that encourages students worldwide to address the complexities of human exploration of Mars while simultaneously contributing to global sustainability goals outlined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This year, we aim to foster innovation, collaboration, and a commitment to sustainability in space exploration while specifically aligning with three UN SDGs: SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), and SDG 7 (Energy).

2024 Mars Innovation Challenge Resource Page

For support or assistance please contact Explore Mars at:

mission - control @

For Support or AssistanceClick Here


In the epochal year 2040, humanity's long-held aspirations have taken flight, transforming the once distant and enigmatic Mars into a realm of vibrant activity and boundless potential. The red planet, a beacon in the cosmos, now teems with bustling settlements and thriving communities, a testament to Earth's indomitable spirit.

The Interplanetary Space Alliance, the heart of this monumental mission, stands as a beacon of diversity, interconnectivity, and collaboration. Our far-reaching crew and global network, spanning Earth's diverse expanse, unite individuals of myriad skills and backgrounds. From the astute operatives in Mission Control to our esteemed scientific advisors, academic minds, and pioneering commercial allies, the ISA is a symphony of shared dreams and unwavering resolve.

Together, we embark on an extraordinary odyssey — exploring distant planets, expanding human life within the Solar System, and venturing boldly into the galaxy's unknown. As the ISA nurtures the pursuit of knowledge and fosters innovation, we empower a collective mission: to envision and realize a future where humanity flourishes across the cosmos.

The Martian landscape, a canvas of crimson and ochre, resonates with ancient secrets and untold possibilities. In this stark wilderness, our community faces challenges that test the limits of their ingenuity and determination. Every decision in managing life-support systems and balancing interplanetary diplomacy bears the weight of our shared future. Yet, amidst the thin, cold air of Mars, hope thrives - a beacon for new beginnings, where Earth's constraints fade into distant memories, and possibilities stretch as boundless as the universe itself.

In this grand narrative, you, the player, step into the role of a visionary, forging your unique path on Mars' rugged frontier. Your decisions shape the destiny of these habitats, your actions echoing through the annals of history. Welcome to "Thrive on Mars," where the saga of humanity's greatest adventure unfolds at your fingertips. The red planet awaits - a new home, a new horizon, a new destiny. Join us in writing this chapter, where the dreams of today become the reality of tomorrow. Come thrive on Mars!

Mars Innovation Challenge Welcome KitDownload Here


Anticipate, Innovate, & Solve by selecting from one of the three topic areas below and choose one specific challenge to use for your Mars Innovation Challenge “Solution.”

ex. Topic area = 1. Water and Sanitation on Mars United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #6  | Challenge = Water Efficiency: How does your solution maximize the efficient use of water in a Mars settlement, considering the scarcity of this resource?

Food Production on Mars

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal  #2: Zero Hunger

"By 2022, approximately 735 million people – or 9.2% of the world’s population – found themselves in a state of chronic hunger – a staggering rise compared to 2019. This data underscores the severity of the situation, revealing a growing crisis.

In addition, an estimated 2.4 billion people faced moderate to severe food insecurity in 2022. This classification signifies their lack of access to sufficient nourishment. This number escalated by an alarming 391 million people compared to 2019.

The persistent surge in hunger and food insecurity, fueled by a complex interplay of factors, demands immediate attention and coordinated global efforts to alleviate this critical humanitarian challenge." United Nations

Areas to Research

  • Plants: Systems for adaptive plant growth under Martian conditions of low gravity, low temperature, and limited natural sunlight. Explore approaches that use the Mars regolith as well as fully controlled environments, like greenhouses that do not rely directly on the Martian environment.
  • Animals: food, land, energy, and waste-disposal requirements for ethically producing animal-based food.
  • Lab-based: synthetic biology, precision fermentation, and cellular agriculture for producing food and ingredients that traditionally have been harvested from plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi.
  • 3D printing technologies for on-site manufacturing of food-production equipment using Martian resources.


Questions to Consider:

  • Precision Delivery of Inputs: How does your equipment precisely deliver inputs like essential nutrients to plants (based on Martian soil composition data), animals, or lab-based approaches?
  • Labor and Resources: What resources does your innovation require? Consider physical space requirements (footprints), water, energy, human labor, robotic labor, and other possible resources.
  • Innovative Nutrient Extraction: What novel methods have you implemented to extract and utilize nutrients from the Martian regolith efficiently?
  • Low-Gravity Food Production: How does your equipment facilitate food production in the low-gravity conditions of Mars?
  • Sunlight and Climate Control: Describe the technologies employed for efficient lighting and climate control to support plant or animal growth in controlled environments on Mars.
  • Water Recycling: Explain the water-efficient features of your food-production equipment or processes, including any recycling or purification systems.
  • Modular Design: Explain how the modular design of your equipment allows for easy adaptation to different food sources and growth conditions.
  • Scalability: How easily can your food-production system scale to meet the demands of a growing Martian settlement?
  • Waste-to-Resource Conversion: Outline strategies for converting food-production waste into valuable resources within the settlement.


Idea Starters

  • Hydroponic Vertical Farming Towers: Utilizing hydroponic systems for efficient space utilization and water conservation.
  • Harvesting Robots: Robotic systems equipped with sensors and tools for autonomous or semi-autonomous harvesting of mature crops.
  • Modular Greenhouses: Allowing for easy expansion and adaptation to different crops.

Water and Sanitation on Mars

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #6: Ensure access to water & sanitation for all

 "Access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is the most basic human need for health and well-being. Billions of people will lack access to these basic services in 2030 unless progress quadruples. Demand for water is rising owing to rapid population growth, urbanization and increasing water needs from agriculture, industry, and energy sectors.

The demand for water has outpaced population growth, and half the world’s population is already experiencing severe water scarcity at least one month a year. Water scarcity is projected to increase with the rise of global temperatures as a result of climate change." United Nations

Areas to Research:

  • Systems for efficient recycling and purification of water, considering the limited water resources available on Mars.
  • The impact of low gravity on sanitation systems and design equipment that operates effectively in Martian gravity conditions.
    • Waterless sanitation options or advanced personal hygiene systems for astronauts.
  • Efficient waste management systems for the processing and recycling of human waste, ensuring minimal environmental impact.

Questions to Consider:

  • Water Efficiency: How does your solution maximize the efficient use of water in a Mars settlement, considering the scarcity of this resource?
  • Resource Utilization: To what extent does your equipment utilize local Martian resources in its construction, operation, and maintenance?
  • Gravity Adaptability: How does your sanitation equipment account for and adapt to the challenges posed by Mars' gravity, which is lower than Earth’s?
  • Waste Recyclability: Describe the recyclability and sustainability of your waste management system, including any potential secondary uses for recycled materials.
  • Human-Centric Design: How have you considered the human experience in your design to ensure user-friendly and comfortable interactions with the water and sanitation equipment?
  • Emergency Preparedness: Outline any built-in features or fail-safes in your equipment to address potential emergency situations or system malfunctions.
  • Integration with Habitat Systems: How seamlessly can your equipment integrate and scale with other essential Mars settlement infrastructure, such as life support and agriculture?
  • Long-Term Reliability, Maintenance, and Repair: Discuss how your innovation has been designed for durable and reliable operations over the long term. What maintenance operations will help keep it functioning, and what is the plan for repairing your water and sanitation equipment when it breaks?

Idea Starters:

  • Recycling Hubs: Centralized waste management and recycling centers equipped with advanced technologies for processing and reusing materials.
  • Composting Facilities: Facilities for composting organic waste, promoting sustainability in waste management practices.
  • Innovative Water Storage Tanks: Water storage tanks designed for durability and minimal water loss through evaporation.
  • Public Sanitation Hubs: Shared sanitation facilities for the community, equipped with advanced technologies for hygiene and waste management.
  • Mobile Water Filtration and Sanitation Units: Compact and portable units for emergency situations, ensuring a quick and reliable water supply and sanitation facilities in temporary or critical scenarios.
  • Space Suit Integrated Hydration Systems: Hydration systems integrated into spacesuits, ensuring astronauts have access to clean water during extravehicular activities.

Resources: Water and Sanitation on Mars.

Energy on Mars

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal  #7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy

 "Goal 7 is about ensuring access to clean and affordable energy, which is key to the development of agriculture, business, communications, education, healthcare and transportation.

The world continues to advance towards sustainable energy targets – but not fast enough. At the current pace, about 660 million people will still lack access to electricity and close to 2 billion people will still rely on polluting fuels and technologies for cooking by 2030.

Our everyday life depends on reliable and affordable energy. And yet the consumption of energy is the dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for around 60 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions." United Nations

Areas to Research

  • Methods for harnessing local Martian resources, such as solar, wind and nuclear energy, for power generation.
  • Innovations to optimize energy conversion efficiency in the Martian environment.
  • The impact of Mars' lower gravity on traditional energy generation and storage systems.
  • Adaptations and safety features for stable and reliable energy systems in low gravity.
  • 3D printing technologies for on-site manufacturing of energy equipment.

    Questions to Consider:

    • How does your energy system harness local Martian resources for power generation?
    • What innovations optimize energy conversion efficiency in the Martian environment?
    • How does your power system adapt to Mars' lower gravity conditions?
    • How seamlessly can your energy and power systems integrate with other Mars settlement infrastructure?
    • What advancements have you made in energy storage technologies for reliable power availability in low energy production periods?
    • How does your system address limitations of traditional energy storage in the Martian environment?
    • How easily can your energy system scale to meet increasing power demands in a growing Mars settlement?
    • Describe safety measures to prevent malfunctions or hazards in your energy system.

    Idea Starters

    • Solar Panel Arrays: Advanced solar panel arrays designed to efficiently capture and convert Martian sunlight into electrical energy.
    • Wind Turbines: Aerodynamic wind turbines adapted for Martian conditions to harness wind energy.
    • Geothermal Power: Contributes to a diversified energy portfolio, tapping into subsurface resources.
    • Emergency Power Backup Units: Compact power backup units with energy storage capabilities for emergency situations.
    • Nuclear Power


    STEP 2:

    Develop your team’s solutions using these areas to focus the solution.

    Construction / Assembly Process

    Please consider the tools and techniques needed to ship, construct, and assemble your innovation on Mars.

    • Assembled in-situ or shipped to Mars from Earth?
    • How long would it take to construct?
    • How can this innovation be built or constructed in a safe & sustainable way? Circular systems for waste, reducing the impact on environment and geology.
    • How much human intervention is needed in its deployment?
    • Will Mars-specific tools or processes be needed that you wouldn’t need for a similar project on Earth?
    • What are the phases of construction?

    Operational Details

    • Resource Inputs per Hour
      • Power Requirements / hour
      • Raw Material Requirements / hour
    • Outputs
      • Resource production / hour
      • Human benefits?
    • Special requirements
      • Temperature range to operate
      • Considerations for partial gravity

    Here are the 16 resources that can be utilized to design inputs and outputs. If there are additional resources that should be added, please provide the resource name, description, and why it is vital to that item.

    Potential Issues / Vulnerabilities

    • Things that might impact operation of the equipment.
    • Any vulnerabilities to environmental factors, like dust, perchlorates, temperature, etc..
    • Potential Mechanical Failures.

    The current hazards supported are located here:

    If there are additional vulnerabilities that need to be addressed, please provide the name of the vulnerability, description, and why it is relevant to that item.

    STEP 3

    Prepare your or your team’s submission with these 4 deliverables:
    1. Written Essay - Include an essay of 1,000 - 2,000 words explaining how your idea or design works on Mars, outlining and describing your Mars Innovation. Use the research areas in the previous step to guide your essay.
      1. Include the desired Name of the Innovation.
      2. K-2 150-200 words    3-5 250-400 words    6-9 500-750 words   10-12 1000-1200 words
    2. Drawings or 3d renderings (See Examples) - Create a drawing, CAD drawing, and/or illustration to visualize your innovation and include it in your submission. The more detailed the better.
      1. (Optional) Technical Specifications Table (See Example) - Give us the approximate resource inputs, outputs per hour that the Innovation would produce & consume, along with
    3. Video Pitch - Please record a 2-5 minute video of yourself/crew explaining how your Mars Innovation works, how it will be implemented, and how it has positive repercussions for humans on Earth.

    Technical Specifications Table Example:

    Drawing or 3d Rendering Examples:

    3d Rendering (low res)

    Sketch Example:

    STEP 4


    Using the designated submission buttons located on the Mars Innovation Challenge homepage here for your challenge group (k-2, 3-5, 6-9, 10-12), Submit all materials, essay with minimum word count, image/drawing/illustration, video, and signed and complete Media Consent form, and Intellectual Property (IP) Use Consent Form included in your Welcome kit and available for download here.

    Additional Resources for Students and Teachers

    Free Tools for 3D:


    • Website: Blender
    • Description: Blender is a powerful and versatile 3D modeling, animation, and rendering tool. It's widely used for creating animations, visual effects, and even video games.


    • Website: TinkerCAD
    • Description: TinkerCAD is a browser-based 3D modeling tool that is user-friendly and suitable for beginners, especially in the education sector.

    SketchUp Free:

    • Website: SketchUp Free
    • Description: SketchUp Free is a web-based version of the popular 3D modeling software SketchUp. It's easy to use and great for architectural and interior design.

    Free Tools for Sketching:

    GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program):

    • Website: GIMP
    • Description: GIMP is a powerful, open-source alternative to Adobe Photoshop. It offers a wide range of features for image editing, including digital sketching. It has support for various plugins and a large community for tutorials and support.

    Simulation Tool:

    Description: Powered by National Geographic As an iterative research tool, SIMOC encourages you to make adjustments and try again until you find the right combination to sustain your mission on Mars.