Space Exploration: The Road to Mars

Does space exploration hold a fascination for you? In this course, you’ll look at how commercial companies are changing aeronautics. Learn the history and milestones of the space program, the future of moon landings, and the scientific reasons for going to Mars. Go behind-the-scenes through compelling videos, plus interviews with space exploration leaders and astronauts. If the science, technology, and the future of space travel spark your interest, this course is your launchpad.

Program Dates

Multi-length courses available throughout the year


For students ages 13 and up



Launch Your Future in Space Exploration

Examine The Reasons We Explore Space

Understand the history of space travel and the benefits that come from exploring space. Study the elements needed for successful rocket launches, and start developing plans for your own mission to Mars.

Discover the Legacy and Future of Moon Exploration

Understand the importance of the Moon in future space exploration. Learn how a human presence on the Moon provides a stepping stone to sending humans to Mars and beyond.

Explore the Impacts of Space on the Human Body

Will we see humans living on other planets? Learn how astronauts process living conditions in space: the lack of gravity, increased radiation, confined space, and their readjustment to Earth.

Learn the Scientific Reasons Why We Need to go to Mars

Examine what robots reveal about the challenges, technology, and logistics of a Mars mission. Study the qualities of Mars that make it a prime candidate for exploration.

Identify the Future of Space Exploration

Explore the future of space travel, the knowledge it offers, and the technologies that allow for a future of in-space manufacturing and mining. Investigate the ethical and logistical challenges that arise as humans expand our presence in space.

Consider Potential Careers in Space Exploration

Develop an architecture for a Mars mission and explore careers in this exciting field, such as astronauts, scientists, engineers, technicians, media and communications, robotics, and design.

How You Will Benefit

  • Be able to define the importance and purpose of space exploration.
  • Understand the reasons and benefits of returning to the Moon.
  • Know the Moon’s role in future deep-space exploration.
  • Gain insights on what it takes to get humans to space and keep them safe.
  • Be able to explain the science driving Moon and Mars exploration.
  • Have a knowledge of the logistics and requirements for launch, orbit, and re-entry.
  • Earn a Certificate of Completion from Rice University.

Teenage boy working on a computer

Three Learning Advantages Designed for You

Capstone Project

This course culminates with a Capstone Project that allows you to:

  • Design your own mission to Mars
  • Choose a specific goal for your mission
  • Explain the value of your mission
  • Select a landing site and anticipate the challenges of landing on Mars
  • Determine how your human crew will work with a robotic rover to carry out the mission


You’ll receive guidance from a mentor who can support you and deepen your learning experience. You can expect:

  • Encouragement and direction on all assignments. 
  • Inspiration, motivation, and confidence to help you excel in your studies. 
  • Brainstorming and ideation to help you prepare for your capstone project.

Flexible Learning

  • 100% online learning that works with your schedule.
  • Flexible format: you’ll learn through video lectures that allow you to tune in anytime that works for you.
  • 20-30 hours of total instruction and course work, 
  • Tech-forward interactions, including engaging multimedia, real-life simulations, and curated assignments.
  • Guidance and support from mentors.

Apply Now for the Next Available Course

June 30 - July 14

Length: 2 weeks

Cost: $1,495.00

Application Deadline: Sunday, June 23, 2024

July 7 - August 4

Length: 4 weeks

Cost: $1,495.00

Application Deadline: Sunday, June 30, 2024

July 7 - July 21

Length: 2 weeks

Cost: $1,495.00

Application Deadline: Sunday, June 30, 2024

All course options have the same educational content, learning materials, and number of assignments. We are offering a condensed version of the course in order to accommodate students’ individual schedules.

David Alexander, Ph.D.

Course Designed by Rice University Faculty

David Alexander, Ph.D.

Professor & Director, Rice Space Institute

Dr. Alexander is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, where his primary areas of research are solar physics, exoplanetary physics, and earth remote sensing. As director, Professor Alexander is responsible for managing all aspects of the growth and development of the Rice Space Institute. This includes providing vision, direction, and leadership; managing the various institute programs; identifying, and fostering research opportunities for our faculty; and interacting with government and the space industry.

Meet Your Mentors

Rice University Precollege Online Program Aerospace Course Mentor, Maya


Holds a Masters of Science degree in Space Science from Rice University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics.

Rice University Precollege Online Program Aerospace Course Mentor, Katie


Undergraduate student at Rice University working towards a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering with certificates in Leadership and Spanish.

Want to Know More?

Sign up for more information and we’ll be in touch.


Our application process is easy. You can expect a prompt decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

How will you be graded? What are assignments like? How much time do you have to turn around a project? When do you find out if you’re admitted? Find answers to your questions here.


We offer need-based scholarships in each cohort to students exhibiting high potential and an inability to pay full tuition. If you would like to be considered for a scholarship but you:

  • Haven’t applied to the program, complete your application now. The scholarship application is included.
  • Applied to the program and didn’t fill out a scholarship request, resume your application and click “Apply for Scholarship”.
  • Are unsure about whether or not you applied for a scholarship, reach out to us at for assistance.