SpaceCRAFT Exploration Challenge



The SpaceCRAFT Exploration Challenge is a hackathon-style competition that tests a team's ability to program a robot to interact with its environment to successfully perform a rescue operation on a distant planet TRAPPIST-1d. It is specifically geared towards pathfinding and terrain/object recognition.



An astronaut has crashed on a planet in the TRAPPIST-1 system and has only a weak position beacon. Although the team at the planet’s research base has a general idea of where the crash occurred, they do not know the precise location of the astronaut. A human search and rescue operation is too time consuming and hazardous. Your team needs to retrofit a scientific exploration rover, similar to Curiosity, to navigate to the search area and find the astronaut while avoiding obstacles and hazards. A strong position beacon that has been hastily attached to the rover can then relay the astronaut’s position to the team, which is standing by with a rescue lander. A crew member (one person from your team) remotely operating the rover while inside VR can give the rover intermediate waypoints, but these are on a coarse grid, and don’t account for local obstacles. Your rover must autonomously navigate between waypoints. Unfortunately, the area around the astronaut is in a “dead zone” where the signal to and from the rover is extremely weak. In this area, no human input will be possible, and the rover will need to rely on radio direction finding techniques to ascertain the exact position of the astronaut’s weak position beacon. The rover must autonomously find the astronaut and drive up to the crash site.



  • Able to code in Python
  • An engineering-oriented mindset
  • AI or robot programming skills (or experience with robotics competitions)
  • Optional - machine learning skills



  • Optional – your own laptop computer with Python, Machine Learning, other tools
  • One laptop will be provided per team for the competition
  • VR workstations and VIVE headsets available for testing and final competition



  • First place: One high-end VR-capable Dell Precision Mobile Workstation per team member
  • Second place: VR-related equipment and accessories (TBD)
  • Third place: VR-related equipment and accessories (TBD)


We are unable to provide travel or living accomodations, and staying at the convention center overnight will not be an option, but all participants are provided free SXSW gaming expo passes and snacks. All university students are invited to apply. 

View full rules


Participants: Individuals currently enrolled in an university


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Judging Criteria

  • SpaceCRAFT Exploration Challenge Points System