Press Release

NASA Issues New Guidelines for 2019-2020 Human Exploration Rover Challenge

By SpaceRef Editor
August 30, 2019
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NASA’s Human Exploration Rover Challenge – the space agency’s annual human-piloted rover design competition for high school, college and university teams – has issued its updated guidebook for the 2019-20 challenge.

The popular engineering challenge will culminate in two days of student competition at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, on April 17-18, 2020.

The contest, which is expected to draw up to 100 student teams from around the world, reflects the goals of NASA’s Artemis Program, which seeks to put the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. One female and one male driver will pilot each team’s lightweight rover across a demanding half-mile course dotted with obstacles and scientific challenges. NASA hopes the experience will motivate participants – and their classmates back home – to pursue careers beneficial to the nation’s science and exploration goals in space.

“As NASA readies Artemis to extend a permanent human presence beyond Earth, the NASA Rover Challenge exemplifies our commitment to inspire and engage new generations to carry on the legacy of imagination, dedication and daring that has made America a leader in space for six decades,” said Julie Clift, an education program specialist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, which manages the Rover Challenge for the agency.

Event organizers in Marshall’s STEM Engagement Office – which works to augment science, technology, engineering and math curricula in American schools and help mold future leaders in the U.S. aerospace workforce – encourage interested teams to review the new guidebook, now available online.

“The event once revolved almost completely around high-speed, timed completion of the course,” Clift said, “but its primary mission now is to challenge teams to think like NASA mission planners and planetary explorers.” The organizing committee refines the competition each year to further enhance this element, she said, and this year brings some significant new rule changes for 2019-2020:

  • Teams must finish the course in 8 minutes or less. The rule adds a minute to last year’s clock, giving teams a greater opportunity to tackle more of the course’s optional 14 obstacles and five unique science tasks, earning points and potentially winning awards provided by NASA and its partners.
  • Teams design and build their own rovers, but NASA will no longer accept pneumatic tires or other commercially purchased wheels on any competing vehicle. Each team must design and fabricate their wheels – with the exception of the central hubs – ensuring they’re sturdy enough to withstand the punishing, uneven surfaces on the course.
  • A new preliminary quiz on the contents of the guidebook – including course and vehicle design rules – must be successfully completed by each team for acceptance into the competition.

Download the 2020 guidebook here:

Registration for the next Rover Challenge will open Oct. 10 for all teams. Registration will close Dec. 12 for international teams and Jan. 16, 2020, for U.S. teams. For more information, interested student advisors or team leads can contact NASA at:

SpaceRef staff editor.