Environmental Assessment


Review of telemetry from the downed lander has indicated that three canisters of kerosene fuel were lost flying over an unexplored area. These canisters contain valuable resources, and may be contaminating a previously pristine environment. They must be located and assessed as soon as possible so recovery and, if necessary, cleanup operations can commence.

Your rover must explore the area and locate the three canisters. The impact site of each canister must be documented for a preliminary environmental impact report. This should include the recording of any disturbances and a test for contamination of the surroundings by the canister’s contents.

A map of the area, including the suspected location at which the canisters were lost, will be provided at the beginning of the competition.



  1. Explore the area and locate the three missing canisters. The following actions must be undertaken during the survey:
    1. Record the route taken using GPS waypoints.
    2. Document and photograph any landmarks or navigational hazards in the area. Estimate their location relative to your route.
  2. At each canister:
    1. Record the GPS coordinates at the canister.
    2. Take a panorama photograph of the canisters location. A minimum of 180o is required, with 360o required for full points. Select a point with good visibility from which the canister can be seen. Record the GPS coordinates of the point at which the panorama was taken.
    3. Take photographs documenting the canister’s location and surroundings. Note any disturbance to the site.
    4. Collect a 5 - 100 g soil sample to check for any contamination of the site by the kerosene. The test must not deposit any foreign materials in the test area. Samples must be kept separate from one another.
    5. Return to the starting point with all samples.


  1. Following completion of the rover’s time on the task site, teams will have three hours (starting either when the team leaves the site or when the team’s task time is up, whichever comes first) to perform additional tests on the sample, and write and submit a report of up to 3500 words (excluding references, if present) on their execution of the task and their findings. Reports should be submitted to the judges via the Slack workspace dedicated to the event. The report should be in PDF format. No reports will be accepted after three hours. The report must include:
    1. Abstract:
      1. Summarize the situation and the purpose of the report, and provide a high-level overview of the procedure and findings.
    2. Search procedure and route:
      1. Provide an explanation of the approach to the survey used by the team. Justify the areas investigated and the route taken.
      2. Show a map of the search area. Indicate on the map the route taken by the rover, the extents of each site, and the locations of any landmarks, navigational hazards, or other features of interest spotted during the survey.
    3. Report on sites:
      1. State the GPS coordinates recorded at each canister.
      2. Show the panorama photograph of each site and the GPS coordinates at which they were taken. Indicate the direction from which the site was approached and comment on any visible landmarks.
      3. State the observations at each site. Show the photos taken during the survey and explain their significance.
      4. Describe the sample collected and the exact location from which it was taken.
      5. Explain the methodology of the tests carried out on the sample.
      6. Describe the results of the tests on the sample and their significance.
      7. Describe the route to the selected site. Describe and comment on the non-site-related features noted during the survey.
    4. Analysis:
      1. Report on the condition of each canister’s location. Include observations from the field and the results of your tests.
      2. Make suggestions for recovery and remediation operations.

Judge’s Commentary

  1. When writing up your report, please consider the outline of how scientific reports/papers are typically written:
    1. Abstract
    2. Introduction
    3. Methods and Materials
    4. Results (sometimes includes discussion)
    5. Discussion
    6. Conclusion
  2. Please be sure to include your team name in the document name
  3. Teams are free to select multiple sites in close proximity to one another, but will be required to justify how the sites were differentiated (e.g. separated by physical feature of the area, must be approached via different routes, etc.) in their report to receive full points for identifying multiple sites.
  4. Take care when rounding GPS coordinates. Rounding to three decimal places has introduced errors of up to 40 meters in previous events.
  5. Consider multiple possibilities when formulating your approach and recommendations.
  6. Teams are strongly encouraged to submit their report even if they cannot complete the field task. Points will be awarded for all sections of the report that can be completed without data from the field (e.g. the intended exploration route, any observations that could be made from the rover, the intended experiments, recommendations for further study, etc).
  7. Similarly, consider starting the report ahead of time. Aspects that are not dependent on your results and can be completed in advance to free up time before the deadline. Establishing an outline and skeleton can also save time for writing up your results.
  8. Tell the story of the investigation and tests. Link your various sections together.
  9. All metrics, even those that are not met, should be addressed when describing and comparing the sites.
  10. The “why” and “how” are as valuable as the “what” in reports. In addition to describing observations, experiments, or decisions, provide an explanation of their meaning.
  11. Differentiate between what your plan was and what you were able to accomplish.
  12. Be honest about technical difficulties when writing the report. Acknowledge when things didn’t work. If something went wrong with your rover that prevented you from completing the task, please provide a brief explanation of what went wrong
  13. Clearly state what is fact and what is speculation in your report. 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.
  14. Similarly, reports should differentiate between observations that can indicate some features and those that necessitate it. 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.
  15. Any assumptions made in the report must be stated explicitly.
  16. Remember that this is supposed to be on Mars, so plants won’t grow outside of a climate controlled greenhouse or other suitable growing chamber. Any plants at the site exist only from a navigational standpoint, but not a scientific one..
  17. Similarly, ignore infrastructure surrounding or intersecting the task sites.
  18. Figures must be described in full, either through a descriptive caption or references in the text. Figures without proper description are not useful.
  19. Note that it’s a rover competition, and only observations and data acquired from on board the rover will be awarded points in the field section. The exception to this rule is the experimental portion , which can be carried out away from the rover and recorded by any convenient means.
    1. In the event of technical difficulties, other pictures may be used to provide clarity, but will not be considered for observation requirements, only explanation requirements.
  20. Good spelling and grammar are appreciated. If there’s no time to proofread, run the document through the spelling/grammar check before submitting. No penalties are applied, but a well-presented report is more enjoyable to read, and seems more compelling in its arguments.