Mission 1

Australian Virtual Astronaut Challenge

Mission 1 | Introduction

Welcome to AVA!

Hear from space industry representatives and design experts from Australia and around the world. Learn about the Australian Virtual Astronaut (AVA) challenge structure and opportunities for students.

Register for the 2024 challenge here

2024 AVA Challenge

Are you up to the challenge?

February 26 at 12:00 pm AEDT, we will introduce the challenge and our five exciting scenarios that have been developed to engage students in an authentic design challenge.

Register now

  • learn about how you can engage your students using the free resources available from the AVA website
  • be introduced to the challenge and find out how students can work in teams to solve a range of authentic space-related challenges
  • learn more about our five unique scenarios that will provide student agency and choice
  • find out about the amazing people contributing to the AVA challenge
  • hear about potential mentoring opportunities for your students
  • learn more about the Young Space Explores event scheduled for December this year.

The Australian Virtual Astronaut Challenge is held over 9 steps and is designed to be run at your own pace. In this time students are to develop a design solution from one of our five exciting scenarios.

Students are to produce either a 90-second video or a poster outlining their design solution. Each week the AVA team will publish helpful videos, worksheets and provide resources to assist students on their journey into space design.

Register now

Part 1 – The Big Picture

Special guest speaker Keegan Buzza (Director of Communications) Australian Space Agency discusses the big picture for the Australian space industry. Ted Tagami (User Advisory Committee – Past Education Chair at ISS US National Lab) provides background on the international space industry and the concept of producing food in space. (20:58 Minutes)

Part 2 – Welcome to AVA – Ted Tagami

Ted Tagami (User Advisory Committee – Past Education Chair at ISS US National Lab & CoFounder of Magnitude) sets the broad picture for the AVA challenge. (2:11 minutes)

Part 3 – National snapshot – Australian Space Agency

Kerrie Dougherty, Senior Heritage and Outreach Officer for the Australian Space Agency gives an overview of the space industry in Australia and opportunities for students across a broad range of fields over the coming years. (6:13 minutes)

Part 5 – The Australian Space Industry snapshot

Veronica Bainton, Deputy Chair of The Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) &- Director Satellite – Governance & Industry Engagement for Optus Satellite gives an overview of the wide array of organisations involved in the Australian Space Industry (2:36 minutes)

Part 5 –  Andy Thomas Space Foundation

Darcey Watson, Executive Officer of the Andy Thomas Space Foundation (ATSF) describes how the goal of ATSF is to promote innovation and social well-being in Australia by advancing the cause of space and increasing awareness of its benefits for our nation. (3:20 minutes)

Part 6 – 2024 AVA FAQs (recording of the 2024 launch)

Ben Newsome (founder of Fizzics Education) covers some of the FAQs for the AVA challenge. (6:37 minutes)

MILO Mission Academy with David Thomas

David Thomas, Executive Director at the Milo Space Science Institute at  Arizona State University describes the work done around the world to enable space science to be more economical (8:16 minutes)

Perspectives in Careers in the Space Industry

Learn from Shae Ingram, Andrew Murphy & Annie Handmer from Optus Satellite and Space Systems plus Astrophysicist Kirsten Banks talk about careers in space & their own journeys. (32:02 minutes)

2024 AVA Challenge Scenarios

Your students choose one of the following five scenarios that follow authentic space missions from the US and/or Australia.

1. Earth Observation: Milo Institute –  Arizona State University

This earth observation mission is modelled on the Arizona State University, Milo Institutes ‘Mission Academy’ which was originally designed for university students. In this mission, teams will develop a satellite design concept that will meet the NASA Artemis science goal of understanding planetary processes and will meet one or more of NASA’s Decadal Survey objectives.

2. Robotics: AROSE Lunar Rover

In this mission, students will design a semi-autonomous lunar rover. The rover would be sent to the moon and controlled from earth to collect lunar soil (regolith) with the aim to extract oxygen from the oxides in the soil.
Closing date for submissions: Semester 1- Friday 28 June 2024; Semester 2 – To be confirmed

 3. Home on the Moon: Aldrin Family Foundation

In this scenario, students have the mission to imagine a ‘Family Home Outpost’ on the moon. This project was originally developed by the Aldrin Family Foundation in the United States. The Family Home Outpost must provide a livable and sustainable habitat for a family and potential guests.

4. Growing Food in Space: Magnitude.io

This mission is brought to you by our partners Magnitude.io. In this scenario, you are a developer of the next ExoLab space mission onto the International Space Station (ISS), the Moon or Mars. The ExoLab program is an annual mission run by Magnitude.io to the ISS, which will be a living case study for this mission scenario.

5. AI in Space

This mission looks at how artificial intelligence is being used in space missions. In this mission, teams will develop an AI concept that will meet the needs of the space industry

6. Telecommunications in Space

Telecommunications in space is critical to support space missions and ground operations. This resource provides the context and brief for students to start their mission.

Use the AVA website to guide your class through a range of supportive resources that generally follow the NSW Department of Education’s iSTEM engineering design process. Challenge your students to design solutions that use resources effectively.

Students have to design a solution to one of the six scenarios and pitch their ideas in either poster or video format.

Teaching and Learning Resources

Below are some downloadable resources, custom videos, and websites links that will support teachers to deliver the Mission 1 content.

Suggested Learning Sequence

This is designed to be run at your class’s pace.

Our expert curriculum designers have developed a suggested Mission 1 learning sequence for teachers. The following is for the full set of AVA resources, however, teachers are encouraged to only use activities that are most suitable for their own class and school setting.

Sub Mission 1: Set The Scene Watch About Artemis and future habitation challenges video to provide context to the challenge around NASA’s Artemis Program.

Sub Mission 2: iSTEM Process Introduce the iSTEM Engineering Design process. Download the poster and place it around the classroom. Use the iSTEM Process guide to describe different activities.

Sub Mission 3: Select Teams Get students to select teams and roles. Watch AVA2021 video about the six characteristics of an effective team and get students to complete a skills audit and select their team with the help of our handy AVA worksheet.

Extension: Get students to complete the Multiple Intelligences (MI) survey. Students to determine their core characteristics as a learner using the guide. Students to select teams based on the results. Teams with the most diverse intelligences are the most likely to be successful. (Most suitable for grades 9 & 10).

Sub Mission 4: Select Your Scenario Now introduce the five possible AVA 2022 scenarios, Earth Observation, Robotics, Home on the MoonGrowing Food in Space, AI in Space & Telecommunications in Space. Get teams to use the Choose a Scenario worksheet to evaluate the scenarios by outlining the pros and cons for each. Once evaluated students are to select and justify their mission scenario selection.

Sub Mission 5: Research Scenarios Once the students have chosen their scenario, they can then complete some further research. The AVA team have curated a number of resources shown below to assist.

Sub Mission 6: Bitmoji Exercise  High School students can create their own space-themed Bitmoji. Watch the video instructions from Dr Sleap and Lori and download the Bitmoji worksheet for more instructions.

Sub Mission 7: Team Identity Students to build team identity by designing their own mission patch. Students to view ISS Science video on ‘making your own mission patch’ and download the AVA Design a Mission Patch worksheet.

Downloadable Resources

Scenario 1: Earth Observation Design Brief

The earth observation scenario is based on the University of Arizona’s Milo Institute. This resource provides the context and brief for students to start their mission.

Download Brief Document >>>

Scenario 2: AROSE Lunar Rover Challenge Brief

The robotics scenario is based on the Australian Space Agencies and NASA’s Trailblazer program. This resource provides the context and brief for students to start their mission. Closing date for submissions: Semester 1- Friday 28 June 2024; Semester 2 – To be confirmed

Download Brief Document >>>

Scenario 3: Home on the Moon

The Home on the Moon scenario is based on the Aldrin Family Foundation program from the US. This resource provides the context and brief for students to start their mission.

Download Brief Document >>>

Scenario 4: Growing Food in Space

The Growing Food in Space scenario is based on the Mangnitude.io ExoLab program. This resource provides the context and brief for students to start their mission.

Download Brief Document >>>

Scenario 5: AI in Space

The rapid growth of artificial intelligence offers opportunities to explore to the adoption of AI in a wide array of fields relating to space. This resource provides the context and brief for students to start their mission.

Download Brief Document >>>

Telecommunications in Space

Scenario 6: Telecommunications in Space

Telecommunications in space is critical to support space missions and ground operations. This resource provides the context and brief for students to start their mission.

Download Brief Document >>>

iSTEM Engineering Design Process

The iSTEM process developed by the NSW Department of Education is an industry-recognised engineering design process and scaffolds the understanding and application of design thinking.

Download Poster >>>

iSTEM Process Guide

In this document, each stage/cog of the iSTEM process is outlined with key questions to ask students and possible actions your students would need to undertake when completing each stage of the process.

Download PDF >>>

Selecting Your Team

In this document we discuss what makes a good team and students undertake a skills audit. Teachers may use the Multiple Intelligences survey to help inform the skills audit. Students then select their team and assign rolls based on skills.

Download PDF >>>

Multiple Intelligences Survey

This is a survey instrument that you can get students to complete which will help determine your students intelligence profile. The purpose is to identify different strengths to help inform team selections.

Download Word Doc >>>

Multiple Intelligences Guide

The Multiple Intelligence guide is to assist students to determine their core characteristics as a learner. It provides strategies to support learning and suggests technologies that might stimulate their different intelligences.

Download Word >>>

Which Scenario

In this exercise, students analyse the mission scenarios to determine which mission would be the best for the team to solve. They look at the pro’s and con’s for each scenario using the worksheet provided. Finally the team will select the mission which best suits the student’s interest and skills.

Download PDF >>>

Team Work – Bitmoji Exercise

Create a space themed Avatar using the Bitmoji app. Collate each of your Avatars into a team in this fun exercise. Note the are age restrictions of 13 for this app, so best used in High School setting only.

Download PDF >>>

Team Work – AVA Mission Patch Exercise

Learn about the significance of mission patches from NASA astronaut Astronaut Randy Bresnik. Get the team together and create your own mission patch for the Australian Astronaut Challenge.

Download PDF >>>

All Scenarios – Resources

General background information for teachers and students to support challenge activities

Artemis Prepares for Mars

In this informative video produced for AVA2021, space training program specialist for the US Navy and previous Vice President for Magnitude.io Lori Waters talks about the Artemis Mission. (9:26 Minutes)

BitMoji Instructions

In this video produced for AVA2021, Dr Sleap and Lori Waters explains how to introduce BitMoji into your lessons for a bit of fun and to build teamwork. Lori discusses how BitMoji found its way onto the International Space Station. (2:45 Minutes)

Indigenous Perspective – Australian Space Agency Logo

This animated video tells the story of the Australian Space Agency’s brand identity. At first glance, the logo appears as a satellite view of Australia.  But hidden within the dots are several significant Indigenous constellations that can be seen if we look up across Australian skies. The brand captures Australia’s powerful cultural heritage and the spirit of the Agency—one that will look to space to provide real improvements for life on Earth. (01:03 Minutes)


In this video produced for AVA2021, Ben Newsome (Fizzics Education) and Wendy Bode (Australian and Queensland Virtual STEM Academy) discuss the six characteristics of an effective team. Wendy then describes the task on the downloaded sheet where students complete a skills audit and select team roles. (02:47 Minutes)



Create a Mission Patch

In this video, Ted Tagami (Magnitude) goes through mission patches used on missions to space and suggests creating your own. (3:06 minutes)



Scenario 1: Earth Observations

General background information for teachers and students to support the Earth Observation Scenario.

AWS for Aerospace and Satellite

Be inspired. Follow pioneer astronaut Peggy Whitson as she gains first-hand insights from Major Gen. Clint Crosier (Ret.) on how AWS helps space customers take research and discovery to the next level. Explore how NASA’s Mars Mission, Maxar Technologies, Fireball International, and Capella Space use AWS to help astronauts, scientists, and everyday heroes do their jobs better. (05:36 Minutes)

Optus Satellite: Come Take a Tour

Ever wondered what happens at a world renowned Satellite Teleport? Optus has been Australia’s leading satellite operator for over 30 years. Come take a tour with us through our Belrose Satellite Facility and meet some of our people responsible for our day-to-day operations.  Optus will be supporting the AVA2022 program and will provide further content throughout the program. (05:40 Minutes)

SmartSat CRC Overview

Dr Andrew Barton is an aerospace engineer who works as Research Program Manager at SmartSat CRC, which helps universities, companies and government agencies around Australia work together to find new solutions to complex problems. The research projects focus on using satellites equipped with AI and other advanced methods to solve problems here on Earth. (15:11 Minutes)

Scenario 2: Robotics

Background information for teachers and students to support the Robotics scenario. Closing date for submissions: Semester 1- Friday 28 June 2024; Semester 2 – To be confirmed
Download the mission brief

AROSE – Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth

The AROSE consortium was founded in February 2020, borne from the vision of former astronaut Colonel Pamela Melroy (now Deputy Administrator of NASA) and Head of Intelligent and Autonomous Systems at Woodside, Russell Potapinski. Program Director Michelle Keegan covers the work AROSE is involved in while speaking with Ben Newsome from Fizzics Education (6:24 Minutes).

Robotics – Can robots take care of spacecraft?

NASA’s Integrated System for Autonomous and Adaptive Caretaking, or ISAAC, is advancing new technology for robots to take care of spacecraft. Researchers recently demonstrated the tech aboard the International Space Station using Astrobee, NASA’s free-flying robotic assistant. Think on how this might be deployed in future space missions as you consider your options for solving the robotics in space challenge (1:23 Minutes).

Robotics – Mars 2020 Perseverance

Dr Adrian Brown planetary Science Researcher NASA discusses his work on the Mars2020 mission which landed the Perseverance Rover on Mars. This video was taken in 2021 and Dr Brown will be providing an update on this mission later in the AVA program.  (23 Minutes)

Scenario 3: Home on the Moon Resources

Background information for teachers and students to support the Home on the Moon scenario.

Home on the Moon

Jim Christenson, Chief Innovation Officer of the Aldrin Family Foundation provides background on the Aldrin Family Foundation, Artemis, Apollo missions and Home on the Moon. (12 Minutes)

Music Video: Picture This – If I Build a Home on the Moon

Official music video by Picture This performing “If I Build A Home On The Moon ” – available everywhere now: https://PictureThis.lnk.to/IIBAHOTMpr… (3:37 Minutes)

Backstory – Home on the Moon

Jim Christenson, Chief Innovation Officer of the Aldrin Family Foundation provides the backstory for the Home on the Moon project. (4:46 Minutes)

Website Resources – The Backstory

NASA History

Kennedy Speeches
The Decision to Go to the Moon:

President John F. Kennedy Speech to Congress On Space Exploration

“Why go to the moon?” – John F. Kennedy at Rice University


What was the Apollo Program?

The Apollo Missions

Scenario 4: Growing Food in Space Resources

Background information for teachers and students to support the Growing Food on the Moon scenario.

Plants for Space – ARC Centre of Excellence

Dr Frazer Thorpe and Dr Lieke Van Der Hulst from the Plants for Space – ARC Centre of Excellence speak with Ted Tagami about the considerations made for plants in space and future research direction (40:23 Minutes)

Simulating G-Force in Plants

On Earth, plants use gravity and light to orient their roots and shoots, but in space, microgravity is too weak to provide a growth cue. The Gravity Perception Systems investigation germinates normal and variant forms of thale cress, a model research plant, to study the plants’ gravity and light perception. Results provide new information about plants’ ability to detect gravity and adapt to an environment without it. The investigation continues efforts to grow plants for food on future missions. (2:01 Minutes)

Food in Space

Ted Tagami User Advisory Committee – Education Chair at ISS US National Lab and co-founder of Magnitude.io  discusses the International Space Station, the Moon, Mars and the Exolab program. (8:48 Minutes)

Cultivating Plant Growth in Space

NASA Commentator Lori Meggs at the Marshall Space Flight Center speaks to researchers Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul of the University of Florida about their Advanced Plant experiments on the International Space Station, in which they have already learned a great deal—and gotten some interesting surprises—about how plants grow in space. The ability to grow food in space will be very important to support future missions beyond low Earth orbit into deep space. (5:08 Minutes)

StationLIFE: Biology

Every month on StationLIFE, we’ll focus on a scientific area where the International Space Station is conducting groundbreaking research. This month, astronaut Tracy Dyson talks the station’s role as a platform for biological research. (22:50 Minutes)

Powerhouse Museum’s Future Space program

This innovative partnership delivers a world-class STEM program to students across Western Sydney. Students use NASA-inspired design thinking strategies to grow alfalfa seeds and monitor them in an amazing ExoLab system, in preparation for a real-life space mission on the international space station. Students will conduct ground trials, compare their seedlings and think about how we can one day take plants to Mars.

Watch ‘Powerhouse Future Space’ (08:09)


Scenario 5 : AI in Space Resources

Background information for teachers and students to support the AI in Space scenario.

Steve Chien, Head of AI at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory talks about the variety of uses that AI has for space programs into the future (4:16 Minutes)

Artificial intelligence in space – European Space Agency

Artificial Intelligence for Space – UNSW

CIMON, the world’s first free-flying AI astronaut assistant – IBM

AI Algorithms Streamline Data Processing for Space-based Instruments – NASA

Using AI to avoid space junk – European Space Agency

Artificial Intelligence for Earth observation – European Space Agency

Scenario 6 : Telecommunications in Space Resources

Background information for teachers and students to support the Telecommunications in Space scenario.

Joanna Shepherd, explains the careers available to students via the Optus Graduate Program (1:01 Minutes)

Australian Virtual Astronaut Challenge

Next Mission | Define

The Problem

Describe the problem or need in detail to gain understanding. Think about and discuss your initial thoughts.

Take-off to Mission 2 >>>