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AFRL NM STEM Academy “Mission to Mars” is going virtual

photo of students and inflatable cubes inside a convention center

Student inflate habitats during the 2019 Mission to Mars at the Albuquerque Convention Center May 10, 2019. The Air Force Research Laboratory New Mexico’s STEM Outreach branch put on the mission, with more than 1,300 fifth-grade students from schools across the Albuquerque area and New Mexico taking part in the massive science and engineering experiment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jim Fisher)


The Air Force Research Laboratory New Mexico STEM Academy will be virtually continuing their “2020 Mission to Mars” experience for 4th-6th grade students. Students are invited to virtually participate in eight days of activities, centered on planning a simulated manned-mission to Mars.

“Traditionally this event was held in the Albuquerque Convention Center, but this year it will be held in the kitchens and living rooms of hundreds of 4th- to 6th-graders from throughout New Mexico,” said Ronda Cole, AFRL NM STEM Academy Director.

Because the “mission” will be done virtually, the program that was designed for the 5th grade curriculum, has been opened up to include other grades.

“During this stressful time, expanding the program to include more students, just seemed like the right thing to do,” Cole said.

April 15-17, there will be a “telecommunication problem” (math and code) that students need to solve to find the lost supply lander on Mars. Starting April 15, students will be given “mini-webquests” each day, where they will be sent on a search to find answers to questions about  Mars.

The following week, students will have daily tasks that require them to complete various assignments that will prepare them to carry out the simulated mission. These tasks will be similar to the traditional mission base operations that were conducted in past years in classrooms throughout the state. On Friday, April 24, a virtual culminating event will be conducted for participating students via Zoom.

Parents are asked to register students at https://afrlnm.com/STEM/2020-mets-mission-registration/, by April 17. Students will have the opportunity to submit their work via email in order to receive a certificate for a successful mission.

Follow AFRL NM STEM on Facebook for updates at https://www.facebook.com/AFRLNewMexicoSTEMOutreach.