Space Exploration

Sixty years ago this year, humanity stepped out into the unknown. On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first person to enter space. He completed a single orbit, and 108 minutes after launch he parachuted back to Earth.

From that moment, we were no longer just a terrestrial species. We were a spacefaring civilization. We went on to land on the Moon, explore the solar system with our machines, and even send the Voyager probes beyond it, into interstellar space.

To celebrate the anniversary of 60 years in space, the 2021 Breakthrough Junior Challenge includes an option to focus on Space Exploration – allowing students to share their passion for space by creating videos that examine our journeys of discovery beyond Earth.

Space Exploration Champion

One participant in the 2021 Breakthrough Junior Challenge will be named the Space Exploration Champion and will be given the opportunity to attend a rocket launch in 2022! See the Rules for details on the Space Prize.

*Please note that all categories and topics in the Breakthrough Junior Challenge are judged equally. Creating a video on Space Exploration will not increase or decrease your chances at being the Winner of the 2021 Breakthrough Junior Challenge. A video may be both the Winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge and the Space Exploration Champion.

Space Exploration Topics

All Space Exploration topics should fall under one of the three official categories of Life Sciences, Physics, or Mathematics.

Here are just a few ideas for starters below. Experts in the field on the news and your teacher may also give you inspiration.

Life Sciences – Space Exploration:

  • The effect of space flight on human physiology.
  • Issues regarding long-term human habitation away from Earth.
  • The possible limits of human space exploration.
  • Space exploration to search for life on other planets or moons, such as on Mars, Venus or beyond our Solar System.

Physics – Space Exploration:

  • Spacecraft propulsion – for example chemical fuel, nuclear fuel, antimatter or other methods.
  • Spacetime trajectories, effects of relativity, the limits on the speed of travel.
  • Gravitational potentials, gravity wells.
  • Solar System and interstellar exploration – the science of achieving mission goals.

Mathematics – Space Exploration:

  • Spacecraft orbits, escape velocities.
  • Mathematical investigations into the possibilities of space exploration.
  • The Tsiolkovsky rocket equation.

Topics that are not appropriate for the Space Exploration option: UFOs, science fiction, the history of space travel or spacecraft design or engineering, a discussion of whether life exists elsewhere in the Universe (unless related directly to an aspect of Space Exploration).

Space Exploration Champion Judging

The top Space Exploration entry in the Popular Vote and the 3 Space Exploration entries that score the highest from the Evaluation Panel will be judged by a Special Space Exploration Panel with expertise in the field. The highest scoring entry of the Special Space Exploration Panel will be the Space Exploration Champion. See the Rules for more details on the judging.

Space Exploration FAQs

Will selecting the Space Exploration topic increase my chances of winning the Breakthrough Junior Challenge?

No, all videos submitted are judged the same. Your video submission will be scored on the four key criteria (Engagement, Illumination, Creativity and Difficulty) as outlined on the Judging page of the website.

Can I enter two videos?

No – only one video per person is allowed.