Innovation Gateway Challenge, presented by BHP

Design and Build a Terrarium

Be part of the NASA mission. Compete in a new series of challenges through our Innovation Gateway, a community science initiative. Everyday explorers – just like you – have the opportunity to provide useful solutions to further space exploration and our world.

In this challenge, you will design and build your very own terrarium.

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Sharing the Planet with Plants

Plants and animals have a very delicate symbiosis that allows all of us the opportunity to live on Earth. The oxygen-rich air that we breathe is a result of the many diverse types of plants, from the largest sequoia to the smallest phytoplankton, that produce oxygen as a simple byproduct of photosynthesis. Plants also use the carbon dioxide that animals and humans exhale to grow, and they also are the foundation of all food webs. Without plants, life as we know it would be unsustainable.

NASA’s Plant Plans

NASA has already done several experiments involving plants on the International Space Station and is even planning to grow crops on other moons and planets in the coming decades. Our ability to grow crops on Mars will be essential to long-term colonies on the planet, but even the small, edible plants growing on the ISS currently allow astronauts the ability to have fresh, nutritious food after months of continuous space flight. There are also studies that show that growing plants, like flowers, can be beneficial to the mental health of astronauts.


Everyone who submits an entry for this challenge will receive a certificate of completion. Challenge winners can select from two general admission tickets to Space Center Houston or a virtual chat with a NASA astronaut.


Level 1: Design and build a terrarium.

Level 2: Design and build a terrarium that also functions as a water filtration system.

Helpful hints for all levels:

  • Explore the resources provided below to find many answers to your questions about water filtration, including a NASA Terrarium Mini-Garden activity.
  • Work with family and friends to develop your system.
  • Submit your entry by using the submission form on this webpage.
  • Be creative!


Level 1
Submit a single picture of your terrarium.

Level 2
Submit three images of your terrarium.

  1. A picture that shows your full terrarium.
  2. A picture of the water before it enters your terrarium. (This water should be intentionally contaminated, so you may add soil or dirt to make the water murky.)
  3. A picture of the water after it has passed through your terrarium.

Entries must be submitted before 7 p.m. CT May 31 using the submission form on this webpage.

Resources & inspiration

Virtual Campout

Register for our May 1 Virtual Campout to get a step-by-step demonstration of how to build a terrarium using house-hold materials. Virtual Campouts are offered to anyone who would like to participate and are you-pay-what-you-can events.

Register now
To support your research, review these resources to help get you started.


Ages 17 & younger

Coming soon

Ages 18 & older

Coming soon

Submission Form

Participant first name*

Participant last name*

Participant age*

Please provide your email address to receive a certificate and get challenge updates:

Submission level*

Photo 1*

Photo 2

Photo 3

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