Task 1: Crash Site Forensics

Task Description

Contact with a supply lander was lost shortly before touchdown. It is believed to have crashed some distance from the outpost. The outpost cannot function without regular resupply. Your rover must locate the lander and begin the accident investigation.

Thoroughly document the lander’s remains, and surroundings. Verify that all sites are safe for human access, and take note of any contamination caused by the crash. Finally, record the location of any intact supplies you encounter for future recovery.

A schematic of the lander and a map of the area in which the lander was lost, including the projected flight path, will be provided prior to the competition.

Task Resources


  1. Find and reach the location(s) of the lander, and:

    1. Record the route taken to find the lander using GPS waypoints.

    2. Record the GPS coordinates of the location or locations of the lander.

    3. Record the GPS coordinates of each intact supply crate found during the search.

  2. At the location(s):

    1. Take a panorama photograph of the scene. A minimum of 180° is required, with 360° required for full points.

    2. Take photographs of the lander from multiple angles.

    3. Take photographs with an indicator of scale of any parts thought to show clues as to the cause of the loss of the lander

    4. Take photographs of any potential hazards to humans at the site. Include an indication of where the hazards are located relative to the lander and any local landmarks if possible.

    5. Take photographs of any damage to the site. Include indications of scale and location relative to the lander if possible.

    6. Collect a 5 - 100 g soil sample to test for contamination of the site by lander fuel (kerosene). The test must not deposit any foreign materials in the test area.

  3. Following completion of the rover’s time on the task site, teams will have three hours to perform additional tests on the sample, and write and submit a report on their approach to the task and their findings. Reports should be submitted to the judges at [email protected]. No reports will be accepted after three hours. The report must include:

    1. Abstract:

      • Summarize the purpose of the report, and provide a high-level overview of the procedure and findings.
    2. Search procedure and route:

      • Explain the search strategy used by the team. Justify the areas investigated and the route taken.

      • Construct a map of the search area. Indicate on the map the route taken by the rover, the location(s) of the lander, and the locations of any intact supply crates.

    3. Report on site(s):

      • State the GPS coordinates of the lander at the site. State a range of coordinates if the lander is spread over a large enough area.

      • Show the panorama photograph of the site. Indicate the direction from which the site was approached and comment on any visible landmarks.

      • State the observations at the site. Show and comment on the photos of the lander and its parts. Explain the significance of any evidence shown in the photographs.

      • Describe the sample collected. Justify the location from which it was collected.

      • Explain the methodology of the tests carried out on the sample.

      • Describe the results of the tests on the sample and their significance.

      • Describe any hazards found at the site. Indicate their location relative to the lander and approach route. Comment on the necessary precautions related to each.

      • Describe any environmental damage to the site, including ground disturbance, material contamination, or any other disruption to the natural state of the site. Include indications of the location relative to the lander. Comment on the scientific and practical significance of the damage.

    4. Analysis:

      • State your preliminary hypothesis on the cause of the lander’s loss. Justify your hypothesis using the evidence and observations described elsewhere in the report. Address other possibilities and the relative likelihood that they were the true cause.

      • Make suggestions for next steps of the investigation. These suggestions should include tests or evidence collection related to your hypothesis. Other suggestions could include, but are not limited to, a draft plan to recover the lander and any intact supplies, further tests to expand on those carried out on the sample, or a response to any site damage.


Judge’s Commentary

This task simulates the deployment of one valuable resource (your rover) in search of another (the lander), and your execution would have significant consequences for the settlement. The report should provide explanations for the decisions involved in your approach to the task, such as the search pattern or the selection of the evidence record at the site(s). However, teams should be honest if technical difficulties compelled them to take a certain approach, even if that approach differs from their original intent. Under such a circumstance, teams should describe both their concept and implementation.

Clarity in pictures is a must. Provide a descriptive caption, a legend, labels, etc.33

“Scale” in a photograph must show the relative size of the object. Therefore, the indicator must be as close to the object as possible. For example, a ruler on the body of the rover shows the scale of the rover, but not of any other object in the photo.

The report should clearly state the difference between facts and speculation. For example, describing the site as “rich in ironstone” would be accurate only if a sample of the rock was obtained and tested or closely examined by an expert. If this was not done, a team should simply provide a physical description of the rocks, and may add that it resembles ironstone.

Similarly, reports should differentiate between observations that can indicate some feature and those that necessitate it. Be very clear on the whether your observation is a cause or an effect. For example, water is a necessary precondition to life as we know it. Thus, identifiable life suggests the presence of water, but the presence of water does not necessarily indicate the presence of life.

Provide your reasoning for your statements, whether a known fact or a hypothesis. As well, be specific in your descriptions. For example, describing your experiment as looking for “nitrogen bonds” does not provide enough information. Specifying “nitrogen-hydrogen bonds” would be necessary to properly describe the experiment.


Does the kerosene contamination test need to happen onboard the rover, or may it be performed on the returned sample after the rover’s time on the task site?

The experiment may be performed after the task time is over. However, the report deadline will not be changed.

What is the approximate distribution of the crash site? Is the crash site centered about a single area or is there a debris pathway?

You can assume the crash site will follow the flight path. The lander may or may not be intact, and if it broke up in the air, the crash “site” may be more of a debris field. Teams will have to compare their findings with the schematics to determine whether or not they have found the entire lander.

Is the crash site in place/ intact soil or on top/separated area(such as on a tarp or artificial setting?

The crash site will be in place. The surroundings will not be altered.

Will the contaminated soil be naturally compacted ground or a separated area such as a pile on a tarp or protective barrier? (We recognize that it may not be environmentally ideal to pour kerosene directly on the ground)

We will implement the necessary protections, but the sample area will be made to look like the surroundings as much as possible. If possible, the area will not be visibly marked, so as to require teams to use their best judgement regarding where to test.

Will we be permitted to collect a sample up to 125mm deep?

Yes you may drill as deep as you want. However, bear in mind that contamination is likely to be worst, and therefore easiest to detect, on or near the surface. As your rover is the first observer at the site, confirming the presence of contamination is the main priority, and determining the extent of the damage can be done in later investigations.

Are we permitted to recover pieces of the ‘lander’ for lab testing?

No. While I like the idea, that may alter the lander for all subsequent teams

What format will the projected flight path be (a list of rough GPS waypoints, a visual path on a map, etc.)?

The projected flight path will be shown on the map to be provided. Intended GPS waypoints, and possibly the point of lost contact (to be determined when the coverage of the map is known) will be included for reference)