In Partnership with THRIVE on MARS & Janet's Planet

Explore Mars, Inc. is thrilled to announce the 2024 Mars Innovation Challenge, open to K-12 students (ages 5-18) worldwide. This challenge, which can be undertaken individually or in teams, centers on developing innovations that help humans thrive on Mars and emphasizes the alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, especially in water and sanitation, food production, and energy. These aspects are vital for life on Mars and have significant relevance to Earth's sustainability. The challenge, in collaboration with Thrive Games and their blockchain game THRIVE ON MARS, encourages participants to be creative and practical, addressing real challenges for future Mars inhabitants. In combination with a$2400 cash award, the winning innovation will be featured in the THRIVE ON MARS game, offering an exciting opportunity for young innovators to impact both space exploration and global sustainability!

Anticipate, Innovate, & Solve 1 of the 3 mission critical needs:

  1. Water and Sanitation on Mars | United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #6:
  2. Food Production on Mars | United Nations Sustainable Development Goal  #2:
  3. Energy on Mars | United Nations Sustainable Development Goal  #7:

Registration Is Now Open for the 2024 Mars Innovation Challenge

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

Registration and Who Can Enter:

  • Students can register individually, as a team, or teachers can register their entire class.

  • The contest is open globally to students K-12 (age 5-18).

Grades (Participants/Teams will be grouped via the following Grade Level or Age)

K-2 (age 5-8)     3-5 (age 9-11)    6-9 (age 12-15)    10-12 (age 16-18)


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?


Develop your team’s innovation 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?

*Attention and Consideration applied to Practices developing promoting or adhering to Sustainability and Equity are encouraged*

Operational Details

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


Prepare your or your team’s submission with these 3 deliverables:

  1. Written Essay - Include an essay 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.
      • Include the desired Name of the Innovation.

    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 in Resource guide) - Create a drawing, CAD drawing, and/or illustration to visualize your innovation and include it in your submission. The more detailed the better
    • (Optional) Technical Specifications Table (See Examples in Resource guide) - Give us the approximate resource inputs, outputs per hour that the Innovation would produce & consume.
  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.

    STEP 4

    Using the designated submission buttons 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

    Registration Is Now Open for the 2024 Mars Innovation Challenge

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

    Explore Mars, Inc. uses Google Non-Profits to manage our logistics. The Submission forms used  in the “Mars Innovation Challenge'' require that you have or create a free Google Account in order to upload your Challenge submissions. Please refer to the link here to create your free Google account. If you are unable to sign up please contact and we’ll work with you to assist  with your participation in the Mars Innovation Challenge. Thank you for your interest and we look forward to being inspired by your brilliance! Ad Ares!



    AWARDS:  All eligible teams will receive an Explore Mars Completion Certificate. In addition, Presentations/Art/Images/Essays will be shared on social media platforms including Explore Mars, Thrive on Mars, and Janet’s Planet. 

    2nd and 3rd place winners from each group will receive a group Zoom with Mars Subject Matter Experts, and 1st place winners from each category will win a one-on-one virtual session with a Mars Subject Matter Expert.

    The 1st, 2nd, & 3rd place winners from each group will have their videos played during the 2024 Humans to Mars Summit being held at The George Washington University, Washington D.C. May 7-8, 2024.

    The overall (1st place) winner (individual/team) of the Mars Innovation Challenge will receive a cash award of $2400 and an invitation for the student/team and one chaperone to present their winning Mars Innovation Challenge Solution in person at the 2024 Humans to Mars Summit (H2M 2024), May 7-8, 2024 at The George Washington University, Washington D.C. (Admission fees for the winning student/team and one chaperone to the H2M 2024 conference are waived, but any and all travel, accommodations, and other expenses to attend the conference are the responsibility of the winning student/team and chaperone.)

    All eligible participants are invited as guests (admission fees waived) of Explore Mars, Inc. to attend H2M 2024!


    Winners will be announced on or about April 15, 2024.


    40%: FEASIBILITY: Assessing how the innovation functions, aids human life on Mars, and aligns with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals for Earth's benefit.

    20%: CREATIVITY: Evaluating the originality in your video presentation, branding logo, or artistic signature.

    20%: QUALITY: Judging the excellence of your written essay about the Mars Innovation.

    20%: APPLICABILITY: Focusing on the practicality of your design in terms of operational details, assembly processes, and addressing any potential vulnerabilities for the Thrive on Mars game.


    1) Responsible AI Use: ExploreMars.Org, Thrive on Mars, and Janet's Planet acknowledge the significant role AI can play in innovation when used thoughtfully and ethically. To promote responsible AI use in the 2024 Mars Innovation Challenge, we have implemented two key requirements for teams using AI:

    1. AI Usage Transparency: Teams using AI must clearly state which AI tools they used and specify their application within their project.
    2. Reflective Briefing on AI Impact: Teams must also provide a detailed briefing that discusses their learning experiences from AI usage and how it influenced their project's development.

    2) Naming Your Innovation: Each submission should have a unique name and title.

    3) Originality: Entries must be original. Plagiarism or use of copyrighted material leads to disqualification.

    4) Appropriate Content: No inappropriate content. Submissions that violate this rule will be ineligible and will not be considered for judging. 

    5) Privacy and Safety: Do not include your full name, address, school name, phone number, or place of residence in your submission. This information should only be entered in the Media Consent Release filled out by your grown-up or guardian. Submissions will be reviewed for eligibility, compliance, privacy, and student safety prior to being displayed in the gallery.