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About HERC

Two students travel over rocky terrain in their man-made rover

Background: The NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge

Each year the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge (HERC) features an engineering design challenge to engage students worldwide in the next phase of human space exploration. As an Artemis Student Challenge, HERC draws inspiration from both the Apollo and Artemis missions, emphasizing designing, constructing, and testing technologies, and traversing in unique environmental terrains.

During Apollo 15 astronauts utilized the first automotive vehicle on the moon, the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). With this rover, astronauts were able to collect more lunar samples than the previous two Moon-landing missions combined and spent twice the time on Moon than Apollo 14. Taking inspiration from the LRV, HERC aligns with NASA’s mission to further scientific exploration and experiments on the Moon with the use of a roving vehicle.

NASA’s 21st century lunar exploration program is called Artemis. Artemis missions will turn science fiction into science fact as we make new discoveries, advance technologies, and learn to live and work on another world.

NASA’s goal with the Artemis mission is to send the first woman and first person of color for exploration at the Moon’s South Pole and to develop a sustained human presence on the Moon. On the Moon we will learn what resources are available and abundant enough that we don’t need to send them from Earth. Using resources, including water, found in space will help reduce our dependency on Earth as we move farther into the solar system.

With human exploration of Mars on the horizon, NASA is developing many of the technologies needed to send human farther into the solar system today. Our work on the Moon under the Artemis program will prepare us for that next giant leap sending astronauts to Mars.

Lunar science on the surface of the Moon will be conducted with polar and nonpolar landers and rovers which will explore areas not investigated during Apollo missions. This student design challenge encourages the next generation of scientists and engineers to engage in the design process by providing innovative concepts and unique perspectives. HERC also continues the Agency’s legacy of providing valuable experience to students who may be responsible for planning future space missions including crewed missions to other worlds.

The Artemis Generation will inspire diverse scientists, engineers, explorers, and other STEM professionals just as we did with the previous human spaceflight programs.

HERC Objective

The primary objective of HERC is for teams of students to design, develop, build, and test human-powered rovers capable of traversing challenging terrain and a task tool for completion of various mission tasks.

Teams earn points by successful completion of design reviews, designing and assembling a rover that meets all challenge criteria, and successfully completing course obstacles and mission tasks. The team with the highest number of points accumulated throughout the project year in each category will be the winner of their respective division (high school and college/university).

The competition course requires two students, at least one female, to use the student-designed vehicle to traverse a course of approximately half-mile that includes a simulated field of asteroid debris, boulders, erosion ruts, crevasses, and an ancient streambed. The challenge’s weight and time requirements encourage the rover’s compactness, light weight, and efficiency. Just as in the Apollo 14 surface mission, teams must make real-time decisions about which mission objectives to attempt and which to leave behind—all driven by a limited, virtual eight-minute supply of oxygen. Like in the Apollo 15 mission, competing teams must be prepared to traverse rough terrains over the course of two excursions on a roving vehicle while carefully collecting water material and conducting science experiments that are crucial for the mission.