A new school year is underway, which means it is time for a new year of NASA’s Human Exploration Rover Challenge. Registration has opened for U.S.-based student teams to participate in the annual competition, set for April 15-17, 2021, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

International teams had to submit proposals to become eligible, and selected teams will be notified Nov. 6.

The 27th edition of the event, managed by the Office of STEM Engagement at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, features high school, college, and university students – the Artemis Generation – designing, engineering, and testing a human-powered rover to take on a course simulating terrain found on the Moon, Mars, and other rocky bodies in the solar system.

Rover Challenge reflects the goals of NASA’s Artemis program, which seeks to put the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. Teams of one female and one male driver or two female drivers will pilot each student team’s lightweight rover across the grueling half-mile course featuring obstacles and scientific challenges.

The competition’s primary mission is to challenge teams to think like NASA mission planners and planetary explorers. The students will have to select which of the five science tasks and 14 obstacles to attempt in order to score maximum points and complete their course run within the eight-minute time limit. The time limit represents a virtual supply of oxygen and emphasizes the importance of planning the mission to maximize return while balancing available resources.

Introduced for the 2020 challenge – which had its excursion days canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic – are the ice geyser slalom obstacle and the core sample retrieval task.

Another unique aspect of the competition is the requirement that teams design and fabricate their own wheels, with the exception of the central hubs, which can be commercially purchased. Previous competitions featured precision-cut cardboard wheels, welded metal wheels, and 3D-printed wheels.

In the event the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forces modifications to the competition – including changes to the currently planned in-person activities – competitors and audiences will be notified.

NASA’s Human Exploration Rover Challenge is one of the seven Artemis Student Challenges NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement uses to further the agency’s goal of encouraging students to pursue degrees and careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

For questions regarding U.S. and international team registration, please contact MSFC-RoverChallenge@mail.nasa.gov.

For more information about the 2021 Human Exploration Rover Challenge, visit:


For more information about other NASA engineering challenges, visit: