Space Center U®

Ages 15-18 Virtual Mission

Space Center University offers challenging, quality STEM education inspired by space exploration. The Space Center University Virtual Missions provide participants a unique, hands-on learning experience tied to space exploration, all from their own home or classroom.

Activities are performed in a virtual setting with 90-minute lessons instructed by Space Center Houston education staff as well as independent activities completed by students offline. These Mars-themed missions engage participants in engineering design challenges that NASA engineers and scientists are currently facing as we aim to return to the Moon by 2024 as a gateway to Mars and beyond.

The five-day virtual Martian mission includes the following:

  • Five days of 90-minute virtual instruction, tours or guest speakers covering rocketry, habitat design, robotics, and thermodynamics
  • Competition aspect for each activity culminating with overall placements of first, second, and third place for the virtual event
  • Supplemental content and activities provided with every lesson
  • Behind-the-scenes virtual access to “the real thing,” including exciting tours of actual astronaut training and work facilities, such as NASA Johnson Space Center and Rocket Park
  • Hear from virtual guest speakers from the space industry
  • Virtual graduation ceremony with certificates


Space Center U logo
student building space habitat

Program activities


Students learn the history of rockets, orbits, and thermodynamics prior to building a virtual rocket with our education staff using online software. Students build a simulated rocket with the goal of a successful launch to leave Earth’s atmosphere and perform a trans-lunar injection to achieve a successful orbit around the Moon. Students can even land on the Moon, depending on their level of expertise!

Engineering challenges


What is it like living and working on Mars? How do astronauts get enough clean water and air? How do astronauts communicate and work with people from different cultures? Students participate in virtual learning scenarios as they build their own Martian habitat that sustains core areas of life on the Martian surface. Students participate in simulated (SIM) scenarios to design or build a Martian habitat that sustains core areas of life while maintaining cultural and global awareness from recycled materials or online software.

Lunar living


Participants explore and accomplish tasks in space using a virtual robotic rover based on a given set of parameters. Students learn the math calculations needed to traverse the space field as they collect “samples” from the Martian surface. They also translate the mathematic calculations into the coding instructions for their virtual robot to ensure mission success!



Participants work in virtual teams to design thermal heat shields to protect astronauts during re-entry. Designs will be tested to withstand temperatures up to 2000° Celsius (3632° Fahrenheit). This exercise simulates the effects on the space capsule heat shield during entry into the Martian atmosphere.

Building 9

NASA Exclusives: Behind-the-Scenes Tours

Students explore Space Center Houston and NASA Johnson Space Center with virtual tours of Rocket Park, Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL), or the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility. They will see rockets and artifacts up-close that were used in early space exploration.

Graduation Day

Virtual Guest Presentation

Hear from virtual guest speakers connected to the space industry talk about what it takes to work at NASA on the projects that prepare humans for space exploration.


Celebrate your students’ achievements at Space Center U® graduation. To commemorate the experience, students receive Space Center U certificates and first, second, and third overall placements from activity competitions throughout the virtual program.

Sample weekly agenda

Day 1 Welcome, virtual expectations, rover history, robotics coding using VR VEX, NASA Johnson Space Center tour
Day 2 Martian habitat design, NASA HERA tour
Day 3 Rocket Park tour, virtual rocket design
Day 4 Thermodynamics, NBL tour
Day 5 Space industry virtual guest speaker, tours, virtual graduation ceremony, Space Center Houston tour

*Activities and tours are subject to change without notice due to weather, availability or unforeseen circumstances.

Program details

Age and class size requirements

Recommended participant ages between 15-18 years. Minimum of ten (10) participants required to run a virtual event with a maximum of 200 participants per week. Multiple weeks are available for additional sessions.

Equipment requirements

  • Microphone/speaker capability
  • Access to active email account
  • Downloading capabilities for various software
  • Recycled materials for habitat build or 3D building software
  • Recording capabilities, such as a phone video or screen recording software

Optional equipment:

  • Web camera or computer/laptop with attached camera
  • Printer

Technical requirements

Computer or tablet capable of video conferencing, research, and online activities:

  • Windows (minimum | recommended):
    • OS: Windows 7 64-bit | Windows 10 64-bit
    • Processor: Core 2 Duo 2.0 Ghz | Core i5
    • Memory: 4GB RAM | 8GB RAM
    • Graphics: DX10 (SM 4.0) 512MB VRAM | DX10 (SM 4.0) 1GB VRAM
    • Storage: 3 GB HD space | 4 GB HD space
  • Mac (minimum | recommended):
    • OS: Mac OS X 10.9+ | Mac OS X 10.12 64-bit
    • Processor: Intel | Intel Core i5
    • Memory: 4GB RAM | 8GB Ram
    • Graphics: SM 4.0 512MB VRAM | SM 4.0 1GB VRAM
    • Storage: 3 GB HD space | 4 GB HD space
  • Linux (minimum | recommended):
    • OS: Ubuntu 14.04 LTS 64-bit | Ubuntu 18.04
    • Processor: Core 2 Duo | Core i5
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM | 8 GB RAM
    • Video Card: SM 4.0 512MB VRAM | SM 4.0 1GB VRAM
    • Hard Disk Space: 3 GB HD space | 4 GB HD space

Internet Access - Bandwidth requirements:

  • 2.0 Mbps up and down for single screen
  • 2.0 Mbps up 4.0 Mbps down for dual screen
  • 2.0 Mbps up 6.0 Mbps down for triple screen
  • For screen sharing only: 150 to 300kbps
  • For audio VoIP: 60 to 80kbps

ZOOM Rooms platform requirements:

  • Minimum OS:
    • macOS X with macOS 10.10 or higher
    • Windows 7 or higher
  • macOS or Windows OS hardware requirements:
    • 2.5 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 or higher desktop CPU (single screen) processor
    • 2.8 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 or higher desktop CPU (dual or triple screen) processor
    • Dual-bank RAM for better performance

Pricing information

Virtual Lunar 5-Day Mission $149.95/student

Payment information

Payment types and requirements

A major credit card is the required form of payment to secure your reservation. The credit card will be charged at the time of booking for final payment. The reservation will automatically be canceled if the credit card is declined, and repayment has not been arranged.

Space Center Houston reserves the right to cancel prior to the event due to low enrollment. Final cancellations for this reason will be determined one week or more from the scheduled date.

Cancellations and refunds

No refunds will be issued within six (6) weeks of your virtual event. If your student does not attend the virtual portion of the events, you will not be able to obtain a refund.

Cancellation of your visit must be received in writing, six (6) weeks prior to the date of your virtual event.


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