Explore Mars

On July 30, 2020 NASA launched the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity autonomous helicoptor as part of the Mars 2020 Mission. The main goal of this mission is to seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith for possible return to Earth. Visitors can participate in this extraordinary adventure to study Mars’ habitability and history by controlling virtual copies of the rover and helicopter. This fun and informative simulated environment allows guests to seek signs of past microbial life by collecting and caching samples and surveying the landscape.

Explore Mars Video

Educational Points

Explore Mars has multiple science objectives that support NASA’s Mars 2020 Mission goals. These are:

  • Looking for Habitability: Identify past environments capable of supporting microbial life.
  • Seeking Biosignatures: Seek signs of possible past microbial life in those environments, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs of life over time.
  • Caching Samples: Collect core rock and soil samples and store them on the Martian surface.

User Interaction

A throttle and joystick are used to control the helicopter and rover while buttons activate various options.

  • Up: Move the helicopter/rover forward
  • Down: Move the helicopter/rover backwards
  • 4-Way Directions: Move the joystick to steer the rover/helicopter.
  • Trigger: Pull the trigger to activate drill mode or show an overview map.
  • Swap: Swaps between the rover and helicopter
  • Reset: Resets rover/helicopter if they get stuck. It also functions as a quit option during missions.

User Experience

Highly responsive, real-time controls help visitors command the helicoptor and rover in navigating the Martian surface. Visitors can choose where and how to complete the mission.

  • Flying the Helicopter: The helicopter is used to scout out sample sites and to help with navigation for the rover.
  • Driving the Rover: Traverse the Martian landscape and drill core samples from the various sample sites scattered across the terrain.

Hold Time Data (30 Day Timespan)

Software Pricing


Small Facility Pricing applies 50% reduction

Volume pricing also applies

Pricing Sheet

Hardware Pricing

Explore Mars utilizes an industrial grade throttle and joystick that use Hall Effect technology to provide unparalleled robustness of operation. The purchase price includes the communication box and main joystick. The approved throttle is available at a cost of $400 plus tax (if applicable) plus shipping. These controls have been under heavy use on our exhibit floor since 2018 with no failures and no need for maintenance.

Hardware Provided

  • Keylok license dongle
  • Arduino-based control interface wired to arcade quality buttons. We provide an industrial grade throttle. Due to the cost, an industrial grade joystick can be purchased for $400.

Recommended Hardware

  • 4k or 2k display. Ensure Windows display scaling is set to 100%
  • Audio: Speakers should be plugged directly into the computer. Using TV speakers may not work if the computer is on before the TV has been turned on.

Required Computer Specs

  • Quad Core CPU (or better).
  • Power Supply: 600 Watt (or better).
  • Graphics Card: Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti (or better).
  • RAM: 16 GB (or greater).
  • SSD: 120+ GB.
  • OS: Windows 10 or Windows 11.