Mars photo

This week, college students from around the nation descended on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, Florida, with robots in tow. Their creations, designed to excavate Martian soil, are facing off at the NASA Robotic Mining Competition. Each team’s robot must navigate simulated Martian terrain, dig up rocky soil and gravel (to mimic the texture of ice), and deposit its plunder into a bin. The challenge is practice for future deep-space missions, in which astronauts may mine their own resources–such as ice to melt into drinking water, or regolith to feed into 3D printers that build space habitats–instead of waiting for supplies to arrive from Earth.

Today is the final day of the competition, which kicked off on May 16. You can watch it unfold at UStream.