The Goal

The objectives of this schools project and the benefits to your class or club by participating are twofold:

  1. To give students practical experience of designing things to go into Space and visit other planets.
  2. To get students to consider careers in the UK Space and other high tech industries.

A high altitude balloon fully inflated and ready to launch

The Project

The MARSBalloon project is an STFC funded project, run by young space engineers from Thales Alenia Space UK, 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.

In 2014 we plan to launch 200 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.

This project is aimed at KS3 & 4 students (S2 to S5 in Scotland) and is open to any UK secondary school. There is no cost to take part in the project other than that of experiment materials and postage.

Important dates

17th February 2014: Teacher registration opens. (COMPLETED)

Mid-late April 2014: Announcement of first launch opportunity. Information packs sent out to registered teachers. (COMPLETED)

Mid-late June 2014: Launch of the first 100 experiments. (COMPLETED)

Early September 2014: Announcement of second launch opportunity. (COMPLETED)

Late October 2014: Launch of the second 100 experiments. (COMPLETED)

November 2014: Registration for spaces on flights in 2015 (NOW OPEN)

All dates are approximate and launch times are weather dependent.

View of experiments at 30km altitude

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. All of the slots for 2014 flights have now been allocated but you can still  register your interest for flights in 2015. See the FAQ 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.

Watch the video below of our latest flight, Tharsis, to see what you can expect from participating!

Register now to reserve a space for your class on the next flight!


Quotes from students

I enjoyed the MarsBalloon project, as it hooked me into space. It helped me to think how life will be in space and I crave to be an astronaut! I enjoyed thinking how the experiments would react in space and make my own predictions.

The project was a wonderful experience for me as it helped me in science to start thinking more about scientists and what they do. We have questions, especially me, and I would like to find the answers and I got encouraged to find out more. I would love to be an astronaut in future! We also got our answer on the sim card, knowing it will definitely work for scientists in space. In that way, we helped them!