Who can take part?
The project is open to all schools with no restriction on student age. Registration should be made by a member of the school staff who represents a school class or club. You can find out all rules and other information in the MARSBalloon teachers pack.
What are the costs?
There is no cost to register and take part in a flight. However the expense of all experiment materials and the cost of posting to the launch team must be covered by the school. The cost of returning the experiments to schools after flight will not need to be covered by the school, unless shipping to a country outside of Europe.
Can I reserve a place for my school?
It is difficult to predict final demand but we will fly at least one experiment from each class/club that sends us an experiment. Our next launch is planned for June 2020, which has space for over 100 experiments (depending on weight).
How many experiments can we make?
A maximum of three from each registered school class or club will be flown, but if the launches are oversubscribed we unfortunately may need to reduce this to one per class/club. There is no limit to the number of class/clubs that can register from each school but each should be individually registered by a different member of staff to enable us to track everything properly.
Who is doing this? Why?
This project is being run by STEM ambassadors from Thales Alenia Space and is supported by Thales UK.
We are doing this to show how fun and diverse careers in space engineering and science (and other STEM subjects) can be to meet the government’s goal of quadrupling the size of the UK Space industry by 2030. This means we are going to need 70,000 new space engineers, operators and scientists in the next 10+ years to continue the vital work that Space and satellites do for our world1
What happens if you lose the balloon?
High altitude ballooning, like spaceflight, will always have an element of risk and it is possible that we will not be able to recover the balloon and/or all of the experiments. Therefore we can offer no compensation for the loss of any experiment. The launch team has previously launched six balloons of this type and all have been recovered (although one did take several months to find), we have built upon this experience and now have a tracking system which can find the balloon’s landing site in three independent ways that we are confident will give a very high chance of recovery.
Will the experiments actually go into space?
No, they will travel to 30km altitude and the official definition of border between Earth’s atmosphere and Space is 100km. However 30km is still extremely high; the peak of Everest is nearly 9km and even Concorde could only reach a maximum of 18km. Whilst it isn’t Space, 30km is important because the average temperatures of -50°C, pressures of 10mBar (1/100th of Earth’s sea level) and increased radiation are almost identical to the surface of Mars; making it an ideal testing ground for the technology needed for future Mars exploration.
Is there an on-board data logging system the experiments can use?
Sadly, we cannot provide a data-logging system, as doing so may damage our Arduino and compromise the flight.
Can students attend the launch?
No, unfortunately. Due to the unpredictable nature of the UK weather, we cannot predict when the balloon will launch, and the number of students involved would make it difficult to organise. However, we will keep you updated on the launch day via our Twitter feed, so you won’t miss a thing!
Can students use this project for CREST awards or other competitions?
Absolutely, we think that the length and difficulty of the project can be suitable for a discovery, bronze or even silver level CREST award or enter into the national science+engineering competition. You can also talk to your local CREST coordinator or request local STEM ambassadors to act as mentors.
Can I feature material from this website on my page?
Yes, we are happy for schools or press to use our content (images, videos, careers advice, etc) freely as long as it is attributed to “Future Martians” and that there is a link to https://www.thalesgroup.com/futuremartians somewhere on your page.
1Space Innovation and Growth Strategy 2014-2030 Space Growth Action Plan