“It is the year 2050, and the successful implementation of the ARTEMIS program has proven that humans can build bases on the Moon.” This is the first thing that participants will hear when the 10th edition of the prestigious European Rover Challenge (ERC) competition begins, which every year brings decision-makers and experts in the space sector and representatives of the best technical universities from around the world. This year, the event will be held on September 6-8 and hosted by the AGH University of Krakow. The European Space Foundation, a member of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), has organised the competition.

The ERC is a prestigious space and robotics event held in Poland, first launched in 2014. It consists of a Martian robot competition in which some of the finest academic teams from around the world participate, alongside an industry conference and a science and technology demonstration zone.

Tasks in the ERC competition replicate the challenges faced by rovers on Mars and the Moon. The teams are closely watched by representatives of the world’s space agencies (including NASA, ESA, DLR, and POLSA), other organisations in the space sector (including ISU, Eurisy, and the Space Communications Alliance), and experts invited by the organisers to share their knowledge and experience.

The competition is held on a special Martian track, known as the Marsyard. It is a unique installation designed by planetary geologists from the Polish Academy of Sciences, inspired by a selected section of the Red Planet.

“On our Marsyard, we map the processes that shape the landscape of Mars: we create a complex geological puzzle consisting of numerous impact craters, dunes, dry river valleys and various volcanic formations, which few people can solve”,  explains Dr. Anna Losiak, ERC Chief Science Officer and Scientific Researcher at the Insitute of Geological Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

The ERC judging panel consists of space industry experts from organisations such as the Association of Polish Space Sector Professionals (PSPA), the Space Sector Employers Association, Mars Society Poland, and international commercial entities. “Our main goal is to create interesting and challenging tasks for the teams and ensure that their execution follows standard R&D processes. Only with such a thorough approach will ERC participants be ready to take up professional challenges in the space industry after graduation”, explains Marcin Wygachiewicz, ERC Head of Jury and Chair of the Audit Committee at the PSPA.

The ERC also features an industry conference where leading space sector experts, astronauts and scientists discuss space and its impact on our past, present, and future. The event’s programme includes debates on the future of human settlement on the Moon and Mars, projects and missions on the Moon being developed by NASA and ESA in the coming years, and essential topics related to sustainability and commercialisation. This year’s conference will start with an examination of Earth’s application of space technologies and satellite data. On the third and final day, the event will close with a unique 10th Anniversary Gala of the European Rover Challenge, welcoming special guests from around the world.

Nine editions of the event have been held since 2014, with more than one million people following the event on-site and online.

“In the past, the event has hosted special guests such as Steve Jurczyk, former Deputy Administrator of NASA; Robert Cabana, Deputy Administrator of NASA; Robert Zubrin, founder of The Mars Society; Harrison Schmit, NASA astronaut and member of the legendary Apollo 17 mission; Tim Peake, European Space Agency astronaut; and Slawosz Uznansky, Polish ESA project astronaut. We are eagerly anticipating welcoming this year’s guests, and look forward to seeing what our talented ERC participants bring to the table”, adds Lukasz Wilczynski, originator of the European Rover Challenge and president of the European Space Foundation.

The project is financed by state funds granted by Poland’s Minister of Education and Science under the “Social Responsibility of Science II” program. Detailed information on the European Rover Challenge 2024 is available at https://roverchallenge.eu/pl.

About the European Space Foundation

The European Space Foundation is the main organiser of the ERC, an award-winning organisation supporting initiatives that prioritise the future of space exploration based on STEAM sciences and new technologies. In addition to the European Rover Challenge, the Foundation carries out activities such as workshops and educational programmes in Polish schools, including the Mars Colony Hackathon and climate change projects. In 2023, the Foundation was the only European entity shortlisted for the prestigious Global E-STEM Award from Pratt & Whitney and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE).