NASA Holding VR Challenge to Help With Future Mars Mission

$70K prize pool available to challenge winners

NASA is teaming up with Epic Games and software developer Buendea to host a crowdsourcing competition called the NASA MarsXR Challenge.

The purpose of the MarsXR Challenge is to look for developers to help create a virtual rendition of the planet Mars and simulate what an astronaut may go through in that environment. Participants will be asked to create assets and potential scenarios as a way to help prepare NASA for an eventual Mars exploration.

Mars XR Challenge

NASA/Epic Games/Buendea/HeroX

The challenge is being held on the crowdsourcing website HeroX, with a prize pool of $70,000 that will be shared among the top 20 participants. The winner of each category will receive $6,000.

In total, there are five categories based on certain scenarios: Set Up Camp, Scientific Research, Maintenance, Exploration, and the miscellaneous Blow Our Minds. For the final category, you can submit ideas for vehicles, robots, or whatever you think will help in the first Mars mission.

Participants aren't starting from scratch, though. If you join, you'll have access to currently existing assets and around 154 square miles of realistic Martian terrain in a dynamic environment. You'll experience how things are affected by Martian gravity as well as changing weather.

Maintenance example

NASA/Epic Games/Buendea/HeroX

Everything from this challenge will go into further developing the MarsXR Operations Support System, which is the VR testing environment that NASA and Buendea are working on. It's built using Epic Games' Unreal Engine 5, one of the most advanced real-time rendering tools available.

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