NASA Contest Explores Designs for Future Colonies in Space


According to students from around the world, the prospects are bright for people someday living in space.

The annual Space Settlement Contest, sponsored by the Fundamental Space Biology Program at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., builds upon students' natural fascination with space and space exploration. The contest challenges students in grades six through 12 to investigate and then develop designs for a permanent, orbital space colony. The founders of the contest envision that these students will one day make orbital colonies a reality.

"The Space Settlement Contest is a part of NASA's educational effort to inspire the next generation of explorers," said Al Globus, NASA scientist and one of the founding members of the competition. "The contest is designed to spark a student's interest in math and science and to develop the ideas and skills that will make orbital colonies a possibility. It is all about training the people who will one day colonize the solar system."

Recently announced, the 2003 grand prize winners were two middle school students from Iasi, Romania. Horia Mihail Teodorescu and Lucian Gabriel Bahrin submitted the design for an orbital colony called Teba 1. The design was chosen as the winner by a panel of NASA scientists from a field of 89 designs submitted by 307 students from the United States, Austria, India, Japan and Romania. Entries were judged on how well the students addressed the fundamental issues involved with building and maintaining an orbital colony, such as gravity generation, life support, food production and resource management. Teba 1 best addressed these issues and has earned a permanent place on the NASA advanced supercomputing Web site along with grand prizes winners from the past 10 years.

For the contest, the Fundamental Space Biology Program created a Web site that provided students access to a wealth of electronic resources to help develop their designs. The Web site contains presentations, articles, images, Web links and research on colonizing space from NASA and other space settlement experts.

"Students and teachers use this site as a resource in preparing designs that later will be submitted for evaluation by NASA scientists. The site includes a comprehensive eight-week course on preparing an orbital settlement design, complete with objectives aligned with the U.S. National Science Standards, as well as an online quiz," said Bryan Yager, coordinator of the Space Settlement Contest.

The grand prize winners, along with the first-, second- and third-place winners in the individual and small group categories, will be invited to visit NASA Ames in June. The students will present their designs, talk to NASA scientists and tour the fundamental space biology laboratories. All students participating in the contest received an official Space Settlement Contest certificate.

The Fundamental Space Biology Program, funded by NASA's Office of Biological and Physical Research, investigates fundamental biological processes through space flight and ground-based research. The program brings together state-of-the-art science and technology and seeks to answer the most basic questions regarding the evolution, development and function of living systems.

To view the winning submissions and for more information about the Space Settlement Contest, visit: http://www.nas.nasa.gov/NAS/SpaceSettlement/

For information about the Fundamental Space Biology Program, visit:

http://fundamentalbiology.arc.nasa.gov/

For information about NASA's Office of Biological and Physical Research visit:

http://spaceresearch.nasa.gov/

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