ERC 2021: Celebrating a successful 7th Mars mission on Earth

Nearly half a million people joined the onsite and online 7th edition of the European Rover Challenge, that took place in Poland from 10 to 12 September. The event not only gathered people onsite but also attracted viewers from the farthest corners of the world thanks to a live broadcast and numerous live social media accounts.

Teams participating in the onsite competition came from countries like the UK, Poland, Switzerland, Turkey, Italy, and Germany. Even more countries took part in the remote formula of the challenge, allowing young engineers to connect with rovers located on the special Mars yard, constructed exclusively for the event at the Kielce University of Technology, this year featuring the world’s largest active Martian volcano!

Image credit: ERC

In addition to the competition, the event featured a diverse, three-day conference program, including keynote speeches and live debates with special guests, like Robert Cabana, Associate Administrator of NASA, representatives of ESA, the FAA, the European Union Agency for the Space Programme EUSPA and Mars advocate organizations like Explore Mars and The Mars Society.

38 Teams from all over the world qualified for the ERC finals and took part in the three-day event, competing in two formulas: onsite and remote. This year’s competition took place on a beautiful, newly designed Mars yard, the design of which was inspired by an area of Mars’ volcanic plain called ‘Elysium Planitia’. The tasks prepared by the jury reflected the latest scientific discoveries and current research undertaken by rovers on the surface of Mars.

The winner of the ERC 2021 onsite competition was the Impuls Team from Poland, followed by the ITU Rover Team from Turkey in second place and the EPFL Explore Team from Switzerland in third.

The ERC 2021 remote competition was won by the DJS Antariksh Team from India, followed by the ERIG Team from Germany and the RoboClyde Team from Scotland.

In addition to the three main prizes, additional distinctions were awarded for achievements in several sub-categories.

The main prizes for the winners were kindly sponsored by Astronika and GMV Innovating Solutions. Additional special awards were presented on behalf of Thales Alenia Space from Italy. The full list of ERC 2021 awards and honors can be found at www.roverchallenge.eu.

In addition to the rover competition, a three-day, very diverse program had been prepared for the visitors, including live demonstrations, workshops, and lectures on Mars exploration, the commercialization of the Moon, and the impact of space technology on life on Earth. Keynote speakers included Robert Cabana, Associate Administrator of NASA, Prof. Chris Welch of the International Space University, Robert Zubrin of The Mars Society, Justyna Redelkiewicz of the European Union Agency for the Space Programme EUSPA, and Andrew Chaikin, author of the book “A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts”. The panel discussion included Jim Garvin, NASA Goddard Chief Scientist, Maria Antonietta Perino of Thales Alenia Space, Ken Davidian of the Federal Aviation Administration, and Artemis Westenberg, Janet Ivey, and Chris Carberry of Explore Mars.

Among additional side events, there was an e-sport tournament organized in collaboration with a Rover Mechanic simulation game producer, an analog mission at the Polish ‘Lunares’ science research station, and a special live connection in 8K with the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria. The US Consulate in Poland, in close collaboration with NASA, organized a special photo exhibition „From the Moon to Mars”.

About the European Rover Challenge

The European Rover Challenge is one of Europe’s most significant space and robotics events, combining an international Mars rover competition with a scientific and technological exhibit and conference, featuring representatives of the world’s major space agencies for seven years. Under the motto “we inspire a new generation” organizers have been bringing space closer to the public and raising awareness of the growing role of modern technology in everyday life since 2014.

ERC is a meeting place for the European space and robotics science and business world. The project is supported by the “Social responsibility of science” program of the Polish Ministry of Education and Science.

Co-organizers of the event are the European Space Foundation, Special Economic Zone “Starachowice” S.A., Swietokrzyskie Voivodeship, and the Kielce University of Technology. The Strategic Partner of the event is the Poznan Supercomputing and Networking Center PSNC. The City of Kielce acts as the host city. Honourary patronage of the event is taken by the European Space Agency, the Polish Minister of Education and Science, the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Polish Ministry of Development and Technology, EURISY, the Polish Space Sector Employers Association, and Polish optical internet provider PIONIER.

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