This is a new iteration of the previous Mars XR Challenge (2022). This new challenge version occurs in 2023.
We are calling on YOU, the crowd, to create and expand Virtual Reality (XR) research, development, and testing environments to help NASA prepare for the situations that will be encountered on Mars. If this sounds intriguing and exciting to you, then join the NASA MarsXR 2 Challenge today!
On behalf of NASA, Buendea, and Epic Games, this challenge is seeking the design and creation of new assets and scenarios for the new Mars XR Operations Support System (XOSS) environment, using Epic Games' Unreal Engine 5.
This new iteration of the challenge will have two phases - (1) a Storyboarding phase for outlining concepts (this phase is already completed), and (2) a Development phase for creating assets and scenarios (this is the current phase). Solvers can submit to either phase alone, or to both phases. Phase 2, Development, will be informed by the winning solutions from Phase 1.
In Phase 2, you can also support our endeavor by creating additional assets and scenarios focused on particular extravehicular activities (EVA) that will be used to test mission procedures and plan for conditions while on Mars. The goal is to create an immersive, engaging, and realistic experience.
The MarsXR Engine currently includes:
The total prize purse for this challenge is $70,000, shared between two phases. Additionally, Phase 2 winners will be invited to meet virtually with the NASA team developing the XOSS MarsXR system and may also be awarded some NASA swag.
Solvers may submit multiple entries to both Phase 1 and Phase 2.
Buendea is a group dedicated to technical innovation and breakthroughs in real-time graphics for XR scenario, training, and education. Buendea is passionate about storytelling and creating new forms of shared experiences that bridge the physical and digital.
About Unreal Engine
Epic Games’ Unreal Engine is the world’s most open and advanced real-time 3D tool. Creators across games, film and television, architecture, automotive, manufacturing, live events, simulation and other industries choose Unreal to deliver cutting-edge content, interactive experiences, and immersive virtual worlds. Follow @UnrealEngine and download Unreal for free at unrealengine.com.
NASA is always seeking novel ways to prepare astronauts for life and work in various settings, gravity levels, and environments. Massive water tanks and human centrifuge training simulators have previously been employed in testing and training programs. But these methods are costly to develop and maintain, and may not always adequately prepare astronauts for every experience they will encounter on a mission.
Virtual reality was first used experimentally in the early 1990s, and it has now become an integral part of how NASA conducts research and developmental testing to support astronauts for space missions. The Human Physiology, Performance, Protection & Operations Laboratory (H-3PO) at NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) is developing an XR exploration surface analog known as, “Assessments of Physiology And Cognition in Hybrid-reality Environments” (APACHE). The goal of APACHE is to create a planetary exploration EVA scenario environment that provides a representative physical and cognitive workload approximation using a combination of virtual reality (XR), physical reality, and hybrid reality (HR) techniques. XR Operations Support System (XOSS) is one of the primary XR environments that is employed within the APACHE testbed. APACHE can support multiple EV crew members in the HR environment, working in tandem.
Future iterations and testing within APACHE will include biosensor-driven informatics, such as real-time heart rate monitoring and/or derived values from crew state physiologic models, objective quantifications of the cognitive workload of subjects, and comparative performance measures using validated methods such as psychophysiometrics. This physiologically-derived data may be visualized and used to help plan and execute EVAs while preserving astronauts’ health and performance.
Mission Aim: As humans, we are explorers at heart, and the search for life elsewhere has driven our desire to explore another planet. The success of the first human missions to Mars will require a sustained effort of stunning technical and operational complexity. With Mars being over 140 million miles from Earth, all the challenges of exploring are compounded by the distance and dealing with situations without real-time support from Earth.
Ongoing research has identified over one thousand tasks that are likely needed to be performed during early human expeditions to Mars. It is unrealistic to build all the necessary training elements for these tasks, but using virtual reality we can evaluate some aspects of future missions, such as the optimal size of the crews, what procedures will enable crew health and performance, and what equipment the crew will need to take on each mission.
Phase 1 of this challenge is seeking storyboard ideas for new scenarios and assets in the Mars XR mission. Phase 2 is looking for developers to create new assets and scenarios to create realistic research, development, and testing environments for NASA test subjects to give them an immersive experience that can be updated and modified with new hardware and software solutions and physical equipment as they are created.
Please note that throughout the challenge guidelines you will see the following terms used:
[The Phase 1 content has been archived at another Tab. You can access this information HERE. Be sure to take a look at the top 10 winning entries from this phase in order to participate in Phase 2.]
*IMPORTANT* Phase 2 is open to all eligible competitors. You do not need to compete in or win Phase 1 to enter Phase 2. Be sure to check out the resources below and download the NASA XOSS Editor to begin creating your submissions.
In the Development phase, XR developers will take from the top 10 winning solutions from Phase 1 and develop mission-relevant XR experiences, using the winning storyboards as a guide. Development phase submissions are not limited however, to exactly match the assets and scenarios that won in Phase 1. You are encouraged to innovate upon these ideas and to fill in any gaps. However, the winning scenarios are of particular importance to the Challenge Sponsors and they are also largely mission-relevant, so using them as your core inspiration will be key here.
You may choose to develop either an entire scenario for your Phase 2 submission or you may also submit a particular asset that you have developed to a significant degree. Note that scenario and single asset submissions will be scored against each other for all of the Phase 2 prizes, not separately like in the prior MarsXR challenge.
Successful submissions will include a video walk through, an executable file, and a full library of supporting documentation. Submissions with higher levels of realism, novelty, and usability will be more favorably received. Furthermore, the documentation submitted should provide clear guidance and explanation of what has been developed.
In collaboration with NASA, Buendea has developed the NASA XOSS MarsXR Engine, using Epic Games' Unreal Engine 5. Submissions must be based on the Unreal Engine 5 development tool.
The NASA XOSS MarsXR Engine already includes:
There are already a number of existing assets available for you and your team to integrate into the scenarios you build. You are also encouraged to enhance these existing assets as needed by improving visual fidelity, adding Animation, and extending interactive functionality using Blueprint scripting/programming language.
Note: To participate in the Development phase of this challenge (Phase 2), you will also need to complete the following additional steps, outside of signing up for this challenge:
XR Equipment Supported by NASA XOSS MarsXR Engine
The NASA XOSS MarsXR Engine is compatible with the following motion trackers and headsets:
*The current engine is not optimized for Oculus and the documentation is not as robust as it is for VIVE products.
Note: Oculus compatibility is still undergoing development and may not be ready before the submission deadline.
The judges will be looking at how realistic, complex, and detailed the assets or scenarios are.
To be eligible for an award, you must complete the submission form and it must include all of the following items:
1. Walkthrough Video Submission
2. Executable Submission
3. Mars Editor Project File Folder
4. You will also need to submit the following information through the submission form:
Process and Procedures
What is the value to the development of the VR environment?
What is the value to the development of the VR environment?
How unique is the submission?
How unique is the submission?
Efficiency/ Functionality / Error management
Efficiency/ Functionality / Error management
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Be sure to check out the Resources Tab. This is where you can find different, useful resources to support your work on this challenge, including:
HeroX will recognize up to 10 winning storyboard ideas in Phase 1, sharing a total prize purse of $20,000. Eligible Phase 1 submissions will also be posted on the HeroX website for public voting on a “People’s Choice” award, of up to $1,000.
In Phase 2, anyone may participate, even if they did not participate in Phase 1. The submissions for Phase 2 will be judged, with the following prizes available:
Solvers and teams may submit multiple submissions in each phase and submit multiple types of scenarios and assets. Solvers and teams are eligible to win more than one award.
In addition to the cash awards, Phase 2 winners will be invited to attend a video call with the NASA team that is developing and using the NASA XOSS MarsXR Engine. This will be a virtual opportunity for winners to talk about what they have developed and how they might plan to use XR in the future. Additionally, winners may receive official NASA “swag.” Note that selected winners may be contacted by the phone or email provided for additional insight into their submissions.
Amount per Award
|1 - Storyboarding|
|People's Choice (Chosen by Public Voting)|
|2 - Development|
|Total Prize Purse|
|Open to Submissions (Launch)||Feb 16, 2023|
|Phase 1 Submission Deadline (Storyboard)||March 30, 2023 @ 5pm ET|
|Phase 1 Winners Announcement and Phase 2 Launch||April 27, 2023|
Phase 2 Submission form is opened
(You may begin working on your Phase 2 submission at any time, but the submission form won't be available until around this date)
|July 3, 2023|
|Phase 2 Submission deadline||Aug 3, 2023 @ 5pm ET|
|Judging||Aug 3 - Sep 28, 2023|
|Winners Announced||October 10, 2023|
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The challenge is open to all adult individuals, private teams, public teams, and collegiate teams. Teams may originate from any country. Submissions must be made in English. All challenge-related communication will be in English.
Team captains must originate from either the U.S. or a designated country (see definition of designated country at https://www.acquisition.gov/far/part-25#FAR_25_003), OR have been substantially transformed in the US or designated country prior to prototype delivery pursuant to FAR 25.403(c).
No specific qualifications or expertise in the field of Virtual Reality is required. Prize organizers encourage outside individuals and non-expert teams to compete and propose new solutions.
To be eligible to compete, you must comply with all the terms of the challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.
Registration and Submissions:
Submissions must be made online (only), via upload to the HeroX.com website, on or before 5pm ET on March 30, 2023 for Phase 1 and before 5pm ET on August 3, 2023 for Phase 2. All uploads must include the minimum required files in the requested formats. No late submissions will be accepted.
This challenge allows multiple submissions per individual/team. Should you have multiple entries to submit to this challenge, they will be considered separately. Whether or not multiple entries from the same individual or team may be chosen for a prize is up to the discretion of the Challenge Sponsor. You do not have to submit multiple entries to this challenge to be eligible for a prize.
Intellectual Property Rights:
As detailed in the Challenge-Specific Agreement – To receive a Prize, Winner must agree to license all content and assets developed by Winner and contributed to the project to be licensed under the Creative Commons CC BY (4.0) license and all code developed by Winner and contributed to the project to be licensed under the Apache License 2.0, or similar Open Source Initiative (“OSI”) license as determined by Challenge Sponsor.
Awarding of the Prize:
The Individual Submitter or Team Captain is automatically designated as the Recipient of the prize monies. The Individual’s or Captain’s name must also match the Authorized Person on the receiving Bank Account. No changes are permitted to the prize Recipient after the Submission Deadline date. If you wish to change who would receive the prize monies, those changes must be completed prior to the Submission Deadline. View our Knowledge Base article here for how to change Team Captains.
You won't want to miss this! Join the NASA MarsXR 2 Challenge webinar on May 31st at 12 noon in Pacific Time (US and Canada).
You will learn exactly why NASA launched the MarsXR 2 Challenge, how you can participate, and what you can win. PLUS you will also have the opportunity to ask the Challenge Sponsor your questions during our live Q&A session. See you there!
Click the button below to register.
Feeling stuck? Have questions, thoughts, or ideas about the challenge so far, and need a place to take them? That’s what the MarsXR 2 - Phase 2 forum is for.
The forum is a great way to gain insights and generate ideas about different aspects of the challenge. Use the forum to ask questions, help out your fellow innovators, and maybe even make a few friends along the way.
You can browse through the forum to see what people have already been saying. To ask a question, click “New Topic” and write out your message.
HeroX checks the forum regularly, so it’s a good way to touch base with us directly.
See you on the forum!
Hey there, MarsXR Heroes. We will be announcing the date and time of our upcoming Phase 2 webinar soon. It's looking like it will occur at the very end of this month, May. In the meantime, you can look at last year's webinar [here] to help you get started early and you can read about how NASA just selected their participants for a 1-year mock mission to Mars. The tools that the community are building in this challenge are going to have a direct impact on training just like this! Isn't it great to see where the fruits of your work are going?
You can read all about that story [here].
And last, hopefully you will be able to attend the upcoming webinar as we will be sharing some helpful information about the pros and cons of the Phase 1 winning entries and some updates on the MarsXR engine. You are still more than welcome to get started in the meantime and to familiarize yourself with the engine! Don't forget to join the discord for any technical questions you have as we are there to help. :) Best of luck in Phase 2!