Space settlement design competition lets school students aim for NASA’s stars

Image of the International Space Station courtesy of NASA

Image of the International Space Station courtesy of NASA

Space settlement design competition lets school students aim for NASA?s stars

Imperial helps secondary students to compete at the Sixteenth Annual International Space Settlement Design Competition

Imperial College London News Release

For Immediate Release
Tuesday 5 May 2009

A new competition that could see secondary school students winning a trip to NASA’s space centre in the USA is announced today.

Students will need to answer three short questions for the chance to represent the UK in the Sixteenth Annual International Space Settlement Design Competition, held at the NASA Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.

This is the first time that UK pupils are being given the chance to take part in the competition, in which twelve finalist teams from around the world will compete to design the best fictional international space settlement. The US competition aims to give secondary school students first-hand experience of what it is like to work in the aerospace industry.

Imperial College London is running the search for a winning UK team to send to the USA, in association with the organisation Youth Exploring Science (YES).

Students must design a settlement that will enable residents to live and work in space

At the US competition, the winning team will meet astronauts, space shuttle engineers and other experts, who will teach them about space exploration, engineering and management.

The team will have a go at being aerospace engineers, exploring how to overcome a range of design challenges as they develop their proposals. These will include how to grow food in space and recycle the air so that it is breathable. The students will also have to work out how to design workspaces, homes and recreational facilities that are liveable.

The team will need to consider how the settlement will generate its own energy, recycle human waste and provide clean water, as well as running communication and transport systems that will enable its occupants to keep in contact with Earth.

Imperial is involved in the competition because it wants to inspire and motivate students to learn more about science. Dr Randall Perry , from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, will be one of the panellists choosing the UK team. He says:

“The winning UK team will get the chance to talk to world leading scientists who are at the cutting edge of space exploration. We hope they will be inspired and see that there are many exciting and varied career opportunities in science and engineering. Who knows, we could be inspiring the next generation of engineers who will actually design real space settlements for the colonists of the future.”

In the US competition, engineers from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics will judge the proposals and will award a trophy to the winners.

Dr Michael Perring, Chairman of YES, adds: “It would be great to see a UK school win the first year that they have been allowed to compete. I encourage schools from around the country to enter.”