About Future Martians and MARSBalloon

The MARSBalloon Project

Thales Group - MARSBalloon Launch

MARSBalloon is an exciting project for UK school students to carry out Mars science experiments without having to put on a spacesuit!

Our balloon will carry 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.


Thales Group - MARSBalloon 45 mins
The MARSBalloon project is supported by Thales UK and run by STEM ambassadors 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. 

Thales Group - MARSBalloon 65 mins
In 2018 we plan to launch 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 Goal

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

Important dates

Thales Group - MARSBalloon 140 mins
Mid March 2018: Announcement of mid-June launch opportunity. Information packs sent out to registered teachers.

8th June 2018: Deadline for delivery of experiments for the June flight.

Mid-late June 2018: Launch, recovery and return of the 100 experiments.

[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.

Thales Group - MARSBalloon 180 mph
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
Thales Group - MARSBalloon 150 mins
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.
Thales Group - MARSBalloon Landing

Pictures and video of your experiments in flight will be made available soon after landing.

MARSBalloon Poster

Thales Group - MARSBalloon Flight Data Graphic
Click on the image to see more exciting facts about the MARSBalloon flight or download a PDF from the documents area on this page

Previous Flights


Elysium, named after the second largest volcanic region on Mars, was launched on Sunday 26th October 2014.
Elysium is recovered
Elysium is recovered

The mission had 55 Mars science experiments on board from 33 UK primary and secondary schools. They were flown up in a specially built tray to 31,240m in altitude where the conditions of pressure, temperature and radiation are nearly identical to the surface of Mars. At maximum altitude the balloon burst and the tray and experiments descended by parachute to the ground for a landing in Bramshill Forest.

This launch follows a previous MARSBalloon mission, named Tharsis after another volcanic region of Mars, which successfully flew in June 2014 with 80 experiments from 30 schools.

The experiments recovered from Elysium were returned to the students who made them. They will be encouraged to write up their scientific results for publishing on the project website.

To see what happened on the ground watch the following video…

…now to see what happened in the air watch this:


Thales Group - MARSBalloon in Motion
Firestar, named after the ancient Chinese name for Mars, was the fifth MARSBalloon mission launched into the stratosphere at noon Wednesday the 17th June 2015. On board were 80 Mars science experiments from 42 primary and secondary schools from around the UK.

The balloon reached 31km altitude over a two hour flight where the experiments were exposed to temperatures as low as -50°C, pressures 1/100th that of sea level and increased levels of radiation all of which are very similar to the surface of Mars.

The 80 experiments launched on Firestar brought the total number of science experiments flown by MARSBalloon to over 350 over the course of three years. On this flight some of the standout experiments include tests of Mars-like conditions on Sheep’s eye balls, UV florescent slime, photochromic paper, smoke matches, magnesium ribbon, toothpaste, enzymes, algae, live plants, sea monkey eggs, antibiotics and several electronics sensors including light and UV.

You can see Firestar's flight below:



If you are a member of staff of a UK school and wish to register your class or club for a MARSBalloon flight please fill out the form here

This does not represent any form of commitment on behalf of the school but is required for us to send you important information about the flight. Participation in MARSBalloon does not require an entry fee.

Please note that if you are a UK school student who is interested in this project please get your favorite teacher to register for you. We are only allowed to talk to members of staff at your school. 

In accordance with the UK data protection act this information will be used in the context of the MARSBalloon project only and will not be passed on to third parties or used for any other purpose.