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Mission Zero

Mission Zero offers young people the chance to have their code run in space! Write a simple program to take a reading from the colour and luminosity sensor on an Astro Pi computer on board the International Space Station, and use it to set the background colour in a personalised image for the astronauts to see as they go about their daily tasks.

Entries for Mission Zero 2023/24 are open from 18 September 2023 to 25 March 2024.

  • 1 hour
  • Age 19 and under
  • Up to 4 young people
  • Suitable for beginners
Step-by-step guide Guidelines

How to take part

You will write a program to display a personalised image (or series of images) on an Astro Pi computer on board the ISS to remind the astronauts of home, using a reading from the Astro Pi’s colour and luminosity sensor to set the colour of the background.

The theme for Mission Zero 2023/24 is ‘flora and fauna’. Images could represent any aspect of this theme as long as they follow the official guidelines, for example, flowers, trees, animals, or insects.

Here are some examples of images created by Mission Zero 2022/23 participants.

A selection of Mission Zero images

Follow our handy step-by-step guide to write your program.

* Suitable for beginners to programming and/or primary school–aged children

* Can be completed in a single 60-minute session

* No special hardware or prior coding skills needed

* Everything can be done in a web browser, on any computer with internet access

A selection of Mission Zero images and GIFs

Mission Zero Code along

In this codealong video, we show young people how to write their Mission Zero program step by step. We hope that it will open up this amazing coding activity to even more young people. 

Participants must be supervised by a mentor, and can enter individually or as part of a team of up to 4 young people. Check the eligibility criteria for more information. All eligible entries that follow the official guidelines will have their program run in space for up to 30 seconds, and participants will receive a certificate they can download recording the exact start and end time, and the position of the ISS when their program ran — a piece of space science history to keep!

The Astro Pi VIS and Astro Pi IR in their flight cases.

Mission Zero timeline 2023/2024

  1. Challenge launch

    18 September 2023

    Mentors register their teams and young people work on their Mission Zero programs.

  2. Challenge end

    25 March 2024

    Programs must be submitted by this date to run on the ISS.

  3. Submissions are uploaded and run on the ISS

    May 2024

    If the submission follows the official guidelines and is made by an eligible team, the program will be run in space.

  4. Certificates are sent to participants

    June 2024

    Teams will receive a certificate that shows the location of the ISS when their program was run!

Why participate in Mission Zero?

Some mentors and participants told us about their experience of taking part in Mission Zero.

“The students had a great time taking part in Mission Zero, it was easy to follow for those who had no experience of coding and it allowed those who had experience to challenge themselves.” Noha Loutfi, Mentor

“My Year 6 Code Club wrote code that ran on board the ISS. Such an amazing opportunity!” Stu Watts, Mentor

“Wow! Just received these certificates this morning. Our Year 6 @CodeClub wrote code that ran on board the ISS. What a great way to introduce Python to students. A terrific experience!” Rhodri T Smith, Mentor

“I had so much fun joining in with ESA Astro Pi Mission Zero this year! It was my second time successfully sending a program I coded to the astronauts onboard the International Space Station!” Team Astro Liz’s Lab, age 9

“Mission Zero has been a great experience for my 5-year-old son. Now he’s bragging at school that a computer program he made was run on the ISS.” Jose Luis, Mentor, Team Mario