Exploring Mars Colonization Challenges

SimMars 3003 is a Mars survival simulator that tests optimal conditions for colonization and crowdsources aggregate data on interactions within the Martian environment.

Built by Jade and her team of 5 at the Space Apps Challenge in Irvine, CA, the game allows players to learn about factors needed to sustain their Martian colony, while planning for emergencies. Jade created a mockup of the game interface using Photoshop/Illustrator and researched 3D assets for implementation into the game. She also created content for the SimMars 3003 project page and gave the final presentation.

About the 2016 NASA Space Apps Challenge

Since April 2012, NASA has hosted the annual Space Apps Challenge for engineers, designers, and storytellers to collaborate on open source solutions that address challenges facing Earth and space travel.

In April 2016, over 160 cities across the globe participated in the 48 hour challenge, known as one of the largest international hackathons in the world.

Objective: The SimSpace Challenge

From the Space Apps Website:
Develop a game that simulates conditions in an off-Earth located permanent or temporary colony. The game could be a sandbox that offers the possibility to simulate various facilities that would support a reduced gravity environment far from earth’s atmosphere and magnetosphere. Users could be given power allowances, atmospheric conditions, and in situ resource options (using resources available on site for life support or other needs).


Inspired by The Martian, Jade’s team embarked on a quest to create a game that would simulate the development of a colony on Mars. Jade began by researching the needs of a space colony on Mars and assessing risks to colonists.

As part of the process, Jade explored metrics that measured colony health, such as oxygen, food, water, atmosphere, and happiness.


Jade and the lead developer established the game’s objective and discussed the resources required for development. The purpose of this game was to educate the general public and allow scientists to study survival patterns and data generated by players to determine the best way to survive and thrive on Mars. The team decided to create a desktop game where players use their mouse to collect, input, and output items, with the main goal of balancing resources to help the colony stay alive.

From her initial findings, Jade continued to analyze the ways that variables, such as resources or random events, affect survival metrics, and integrated them into the game mechanics.

For example:

  • The level of water is affected by the number of people and plants in the colony, as well as oxygen produced.
  • Random events include dust storms, satellite disturbances, births, or injuries.


Jade sketched a rough wireframe of a dashboard that displayed survival metrics, an announcement news feed, and current colony resources at a glance.


Jade created mockups demonstrating various states of the game, with one screen showing the map, and another screen showing analytics for the Martian climate. Though the team did not complete the UI implementation, Jade was able to present the game demo.


Watch the Game Demo