By Hannah Maginot
For the 2023 season, HERC returns to live, on-site competition for the first time since 2019. Participating teams will represent 45 colleges and universities and 16 high schools from 30 countries around the world.
Throughout the nine-month challenge, each team will attempt to design, build, and test human-powered rovers capable of traversing a challenging half-mile obstacle course that simulates the terrain of the Moon, Mars, or other rocky bodies in our solar system. In addition, students must also design and demonstrate a unique tool capable of completing various mission tasks.
“A hearty congratulations to this year’s selected teams.” said Miranda Fike, senior education specialist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, in Huntsville, Alabama. “We welcome our return to in-person competition and look forward to seeing each team’s creative solutions throughout the year and how their rovers and task tools perform on the course in April.”
Along with HERC’s return to Huntsville, the 2023 season will feature a new course location, ten obstacles and five liquid sample retrieval tasks. Two pilots from each team must complete the challenge in eight minutes or less. Teams earn points by successfully completing design reviews, developing a rover meeting all criteria, and completing course obstacles and mission tasks. Winning teams are those that accumulate the highest number of points throughout the project year in each category.
The students must also think like mission planners, selecting tasks to complete along the path to gain the maximum points available. This encourages teams to develop strategies that balance efficiency with speed and simulates real-world conditions astronauts may face completing space missions.
“Our goal is to make real-world connections between student ingenuity and the vital work NASA is doing to return explorers to the Moon and prepare the way for crewed missions to Mars,” said education specialist Catherine Shelton of the Office of STEM Engagement at Marshall.
HERC is managed by NASA’s Southeast Regional Office of STEM Engagement at Marshall. HERC is one of eight Artemis Student Challenges and reflects the goals of NASA’s Artemis Program, which seeks to put the first woman and person of color on the Moon. NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement strives to further the agency’s goal of encouraging students to pursue degrees and careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
For more information about the 2023 Human Exploration Rover Challenge, visit:
For more information about other NASA engineering challenges, visit: