As NASA is preparing for its first crewed mission to the red planet, the space agency is making an extra effort to ensure that it succeeds in its manned missions to Mars. On February 16, NASA announced its new Mars challenge in partnership with crowdsourcing platform HeroX, and Fortnite maker Epic Games and simulation company Buenda.
According to the announcement, NASA and its partners need the help of professionals in creating virtual reality environments that can replicate the experiences and situations astronauts may find themselves in on Mars. Why did NASA put up this new Mars challenge? How can you participate in the challenge? Continue reading to find out.
Why NASA, HeroX, and Buenda came up with the new Mars Challenge
Unlike sending robotic rovers, landers, and orbiters to Mars, NASA needs to come up with strategic solutions that will sustain humans when they arrive on the red planet. The hostile nature of the Martian terrain will make the crewed mission complicated if NASA does not make proper planning to provide them with sustaining and earth-like habitats.
The American space agency and its partners are searching for the best software to simulate several parts of the Mars mission. Experts like you can help NASA meet its future goals on Mars and you can make your contribution by participating in this challenge if you are skillful enough in building simulated worlds.
Keep in mind that Martian gravity is only 40% of Earth’s gravity. The dusty and weather conditions of Mars make it impossible for humans to survive on Mars without the necessary protections and technologies. Hence, you may consider adding solutions that solve all of these challenges in your simulated worlds.
How to Participate in the New Mars Challenge
NASA and its partners are searching for highly skillful experts to participate in this new Mars challenge named MarsXR 2. This challenge is planned as a sequel experience to another challenge that was completed in 2022. But unlike MarsXR 2, the past challenge was focused more on extravehicular activities conducted by spacesuited astronauts on the Martian terrain.
But for this new challenge, NASA and its partners are willing to reward 15 participants who passed two phases of the challenge with about $70,000. During the first phase of the challenge, participants will be expected to build a storyboard concept detailing what they are planning to create. The second phase of the challenge is where the participants will create a virtual reality environment displaying how humans can live on Mars.
“We are launching this sequel challenge to engage a greater number of thinkers and creators,” Kal Sahota, CEO of HeroX, announced in the statement. “We had a lot of success with the first challenge, and with this storyboard option, we expect even more innovative ideas and a broader audience of participants.”
You can learn the basic steps on how to apply for this challenge from the HeroX website.
How Close is NASA to sending humans to Mars?
NASA is one of the top space agencies advocating for human missions to Mars. However, the American space agency is still focused on accomplishing its crewed missions to the moon under its Artemis Space Program before coming up with plans to send humans to Mars. This implies that NASA does not have any immediate plans to put humans on the Red Planet. But after the agency accomplishes crewed missions to the moon in 2025 and 2027 respectively, its next primary mission may target Mars.
Some NASA officials have occasionally revealed that NASA may target first crewed missions to Mars in the late 2030s or early 2040s. However, the mission timeline for NASA’s crewed missions to the red planet will mostly depend on the progress made in technology developments and funding from the government.
NASA and HeroX have previously organized several space challenges over time. This new challenge will also bring out the creativity in people and make everyone think outside the box for possible solutions that will enable astronauts to live on Mars. What do you think about this new unique challenge?