NASA Ames Research Center Annual Space Settlement Contest

1998 contest results are in.

This annual contest is for 6-12th graders (11-18 years old) from anywhere in the world. Individuals, teams of up to five, and whole classrooms (usually 20-30 students) may enter. Grades 6-9 and 10-12 are judged separately, except for the grand prize. Students develop space settlement designs and related materials. These are sent to NASA Ames for judgement. Due date is 31 March 1999. Check out the results of the 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998 contests. Teachers are encouraged to use this contest as part of their curriculum. See the space settlement teacher's page.

Contest prizes and certificates:

Here are some of the grand prize entries from previous years:

Some contestants have created WWW sites of their work. These include:




Use on line contest entry form and send hard copy of your work to:

Al Globus
MS T27A-1
NASA Ames Research Center
Moffett Field, CA 94035

by March 31,1999.

Teachers using the contest in their class should submit all projects together. Note: electronic submission is not allowed, only hard copy.


Space colonies are permanent communities in orbit, as opposed to living on the Moon or other planets. The work of Princeton physicist Dr. O'Neill and others have shown that such colonies are technically feasible, although expensive. Settlers of this high frontier are expected to live inside large air-tight rotating structures holding hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people along with the animals, plants, and single celled organisms vital to comfort and survival. There are many advantages to living in orbit: environmental independence, plentiful solar energy, and terrific views to name a few. There is plenty of room for everyone who wants to go; the materials from a single asteroid can build space colonies with living space equal to about 500 times the surface area of the Earth.

Why should colonies be in orbit? Mars and our Moon have a surface gravity far below Earth normal. Children raised in low-g will not develop bones and muscles strong enough to visit Earth comfortably. In contrast, orbital colonies can be rotated to provide Earth normal pseudo-gravity in the main living areas.

We hope teachers will make this contest part of their lesson plan. While designing a space colony, students will have a chance to study physics, mathematics, space science, environmental science, and many other disciplines. We would like students outside the science classes to participate as well. Thus, contest submissions may include designs, essays, stories, models, and artwork. Students can design entire colonies or focus on one aspect of orbital living. A class or school may submit a joint project where small teams tackle different areas in a coordinated fashion. For example, consider a cross curriculum project where science classes design the basic structure and support systems, art students create pictures of the interior and exterior, English students write related short stories, social studies students develop government and social systems, woodshop builds a scale model, and the football team proposes low-g sports.

Schools and teachers may consider ongoing multi-year projects; each year's students add detail to a space colony design that becomes part of the school or class portfolio. In this case, teachers assign students to different parts of the design, gradually building a more and more complete and practical space colony concept. Each year the project can be submitted to the contest.

Other Space Settlement Contests

There are at least three ongoing space settlement contests open to students:

and ours.

To the space settlement home page.

Many thanks to Tom Lasinski, NASA Ames Research Center, for supporting this activity.