Martin Whitfield MSP is encouraging local schools to consider entering this year’s MARSBalloon project, which is designed to give young people practical experience of designing and testing ideas to go into space that could one day be destined for Mars.

Thales Alenia Space’s MARSBalloon team will launch a balloon to an altitude of 30km, more than twice the height of commercial airliners, where they will be above 99% of Earth’s atmosphere.

Students can work together to create Mars experiments that fit inside a small egg-shaped capsule and send them to the MARSBalloon team in Thales Alenia Space in Bristol to include in the launch. During the flight, the experiments experience conditions very similar to the surface of Mars including temperatures of -50°C and pressures 1/100th that of sea level.

This allows students to test the response of electronics, materials, plants and even food to these harsh conditions, helping future explorers to prepare for this strange and hostile environment.

After the balloon’s flight, the MARSBalloon team will track the landing to recover the experiments and return them safely to the students for analysis. Pictures and video of the flight are also made available so students can watch and see what happens to their experiments during the flight.

Martin Whitfield MSP said:

“The MARSBalloon project encourages pupils to gain practical experience of designing and testing experiments in space and offers a unique opportunity to discover more about the conditions on Mars.

“The initiative is a really exciting way to engage children and young people with STEM topics and I’m pleased to encourage local schools to take part in the project this year.”

MARSBalloon is open to primary and secondary age pupils across the UK and there is no cost to take part in the project other than that of experiment materials and postage. This year’s project will also have a competitive element, with prizes awarded for primary and secondary categories for Best Innovation, Best Decoration, Engineers Choice and VIP Judge’s Choice award.

The deadline for registration is 8th March 2024 with the launch of the balloon in May / early June dependant on the weather.

Teachers and others potentially interested in entering the project can find out more about the MARSBalloon experiment and download the information pack at