The MARSBalloon Project
MARSBalloon is an exciting project for school students and science clubs to carry out Mars-analogue science experiments without having to put on a spacesuit!
Our balloon will carry over 100 student experiments to an altitude of 30km, more than twice the height of commercial airliners, where they will be above 99% of Earth’s atmosphere. Along the way they will experience conditions very similar to the surface of Mars including temperatures of -50°C, pressures 1/100th that of sea level and an increased radiation dose.
This allows students to test the response of electronics, materials, plants and even food to the conditions outside of a future Mars base, helping future explorers to prepare for this strange and hostile environment. The whole flight lasts approximately four hours and the MARSBalloon team will chase after the balloon to recover the experiments after landing, allowing them to be returned to the students for analysis.
The MARSBalloon project is supported by Thales UK and run by enthusiastic STEM supporters from Thales Alenia Space, that will test student ideas for technologies that could one day be destined for Mars.
The aim is to test anything that humans or robots will be doing on Mars in the future.
This project is open to any school in the UK. There is no cost to take part in the project other than that of experiment materials and postage.
In June 2019 we plan to launch over 100 experiment capsules on high altitude balloons 30km up into the Earth’s atmosphere, a place where conditions of gas pressure, temperature and radiation are very similar to the surface of Mars.
The objectives of this schools project and the benefits to your class or club by participating are twofold:
- To give students practical experience of designing things to go into Space and visit other planets
- To get students to consider careers in the UK Space and other high tech industries
February 2019: Announcement of 2019 launch opportunity
18th April 2019: Registration deadline
26th April 2019: Confirmation of experiment selection
24th May 2019: Deadline for experiment delivery
Early June 2019: Launch!
[Please note launch times are weather dependent]
What to expect
By registering your class or club to take part in MARSBalloon you will be reserving at least one experiment for a future flight. See the FAQs for more details on registration.
Please read the information pack which contains everything you need to know to get your students to make Mars experiments that can fly on our balloons, including:
- Information on exploring Mars and its surface environment
- A complete list of rules that experiments must satisfy to be allowed to fly
- Career advice for students who want to work in Space and related industries
- Ideas for experiments
Using the information pack your students can work to together to create Mars experiments, that fit inside a Kinder Egg capsule™, which you post to us so we can include them in the launch. Previous examples of experiments include testing the effect of Martian conditions on rubber bands, ink, memory sticks and 3D printed materials.
During the launch the balloon will ascend to 30km in approximately one hour where it will burst and the experiment tray will return to Earth via parachute. We will then collect the experiments and return them to your school for your students to analyse the results.
Pictures and video of your experiments in flight will be made available soon after landing.
You can also follow us on our Twitter page.