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Project name:

NASA MarsXR Challenge

Status: Idea
Creation date: 18-05-2022

Project objectives:

Build Virtual Reality (XR) assets and scenarios for use by NASA in research focused on extravehicular activities on the surface of Mars.


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.

This challenge will award four winners in each of five different categories. Teams may submit multiple submissions in each category and submit to multiple categories. Each submission should be materially different from the other submissions the team has made in relation to content and focus. Teams are eligible to win more than one award. 


To participate in this challenge, you will need to complete the following steps:

  1. Click on the Solve this Challenge at the top of this page and accept the terms and conditions
  2. Sign up for an Epic Games account
  3. Download the NASA XOSS MarsXR Engine on the Epic Games Market Place
  4. Read the How-to documentation for using the game engine

Check out the Resource Tab.  This is where you can find different, useful resources to support your work on this challenge, including:

  • NASA category documents
    • NASA Human Exploration of Mars: Preliminary Lists of Crew Tasks 
    • NASA Exploration EVA System - Concept of Operation
  • Potential scenarios, and assets for each category
    • Set Up Camp
    • Scientific Research
    • Maintenance
    • Exploration
    • Blow Our Minds
    • List of Existing Assets
  • UnReal support and development network
    • UnReal Training Content
    • UnReal Forums
  • Communications channels
    • Forum Tab
      • Challenge Guidelines - Post any potential website issues here or general feedback on the challenge
      • Challenge Eligibility, Feedback, or Website Issues - Post your questions about the challenge guidelines here.
    • Challenge Technical Support - Visit this Discord Channel which is available to support participants with technical questions relating to the NASA XOSS MarsXR Engine

Successful submissions will include a video walk through, an executable file, and a full library of supporting documentation. Each submission will need to be either a scenario or an asset that should bring value to the larger XR environment being developed for NASA. Submissions with higher levels of realism, novelty, and usability will be more favorably received. Furthermore, the documentation submitted should provide a clear guideline and explanation of what has been developed.

Submissions must be based on the Unreal Engine 5 development tool.


Mission Information

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 training elements for 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.

This challenge 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.


MarsXR Engine Information

In collaboration with NASA, Buendea has developed the NASA XOSS MarsXR Engine,  using Epic Games' Unreal Engine 5.

The NASA XOSS MarsXR Engine already includes:

  • Motion capture for full-body tracking using VIVE Trackers
  • Multiplayer environment that allows users to connect and explore Mars
  • Full Martian Day and Night Cycles, with the orange hues of daytime transitioning to blue at night
  • Realistic weather conditions, and Martian gravity
  • Over 400 km2 (approximately 154 miles2) of Mars terrain covering the Jezero Crater (based on photogrammetry and satellite imagery)
  • Numerous assets such as suits and rovers.

There are a number of existing assets available for you and your team to integrate into the scenarios you build. You are also encouraged to enhance existing assets as needed by improving visual fidelity, adding Animation, and extending interactive functionality using either Blueprint or C++ scripting/programming languages.

For this challenge, a scenario is a single or networked XR experience that requires users to perform a sequence or series of tasks to complete defined objectives. An asset is defined as a 3D model of a relevant object with materials and scripted functionality. An example of an asset consists of static mesh components, with scripted events, and functions that define and determine asset behavior when interacting within the NASA XOSS MarsXR Engine environment.


XR Equipment Supported by NASA XOSS MarsXR Engine

The NASA XOSS MarsXR Engine is compatible with the following motion trackers and headsets:

  • Motion capture via VIVE trackers
  • SteamVR supported headsets
    • HTC VIVE
    • VIVE Pro
    • VIVE Pro eye
    • VIVE Pro 2
    • Valve Index
  MarsXR Challenge Categories

Within each category, you may develop a specific scenario (including all needed assets), or just assets that you believe will be needed for tasks within a scenario or category.  The XOSS MarsXR engine does not support scenarios inside the habitat. Teams will need to define if the scenario is single or multiplayer modes.

If you are developing an asset, each asset developed will need to be used in both single and multiplayer modes. 

If you are modifying any of the existing assets already provided in the Mars Editor, you must duplicate the asset and then move it to your project folder and give it a new name that is different from the original asset.

There are five (5) different categories to participate in, with particular scenarios to explore in each category:

  1. Set Up Camp
  2. Scientific Research
  3. Maintenance
  4. Exploration
  5. Blow Our Minds

Check out the Categories Tab for more information



HeroX will recognize up to 20 winning ideas, sharing a total prize purse of $70,000. This challenge will award four winners in each of five different categories. Teams can be of any size, from a single individual to a large group or formal organization, as long as a leader is nominated.

Teams may submit multiple submissions in each category and submit to multiple categories. Assets that are submitted as part of a scenario will also be considered for the asset prize. Each submission should be materially different from the other submissions the team has made in relation to content and focus. Teams are eligible to and may win more than one award. 

In each category, there will be one Overall Winner. There will be three additional prizes for each category: 

  • Best Scenario
  • Best Asset
  • Honorable Mention

In addition to the cash awards, winners will each receive a 30 mins zoom call with the NASA team that is developing and using the NASA XOSS MarsXR Engine.  This will be an opportunity for winners to talk about what they have developed and how they might plan to use XR in the future. Additionally, winners will receive official NASA “swag”, which could include things like posters or pins from past NASA projects and/or missions. Selected winners may be contacted for additional insight into their submissions.

How do I win?

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. Video Submission

  • Provide the link for the video
  • Must be 3 minutes or less in length
  • Give a narrative (in English) description of the project, explaining what has been developed and why
  • Show gameplay highlights for the scenario or the asset/s in use
  • Provide a 360’ view of assets, for asset-only submissions

2. Executable Submission

  • Submit an EXE file of the “cooked” submission
  • For the executable you will need to cook and package the project for submission.
  • After you have cooked and packaged the project, rename the build folder from “WindowsNoEditor” to a relevant name for your submission.
  • Verify the build works, and then Zip up the build folder for submission.

3. Mars Editor Project File Folder

  • All project files should be placed under a single parent folder in the content browser in Mars Editor. The parent folder should be labeled with the prefix “AA” and then Your Team Name. Any sub-folders in the parent folder can be labeled as needed.


Participation Eligibility:

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, 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. 

Source / contact: NASA MarsXR Challenge | HeroX


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