NASA Space Settlement Contest

To all participating Instructors:

This international competition is your opportunity to share with your students the NASA vision of living and working in space. In an effort to maintain and develop the contest we hope that you will provide input and feedback on how the contest impacts your students and your curriculum. In addition we will soon be actively involved in a follow-up study to determine how many participating students major in science or space related science in college, gain employment in related fields, or eventually start careers at NASA.

Please assist us by providing the number of former students that have gone on into the related areas mentioned above. Please contact:

Bryan Yager
MS 236-7
NASA Ames Research Center
Moffett Field, CA 94035

We appreciate your participation in this valuable instructional program and welcome your comments.

Here's what educators are saying.

Dear Mr. Yager: I am sure the two students are keen to participate again in the contest next year. You -- and all those helping organize this contest -- you are doing a tremendous service to science education and science attractivity around the world. It is unbelievable the enthusiasm the NASA contest has sparked here in Romania, when students learned about it for the first time, last year. Thank you for your efforts and please convey my hearty thanks to all people helping this contest continue. With my best regards, Dr. Horia-Nicolai. (June 22, 2004)

"No other group activity I have ever implemented has required my students to feel such a palpable sense of personal responsibility. Students repeatedly wrote about gaining self-esteem and self confidence from the experience. Some said they had learned what real commitment was all about. Before the contest they had never been interested in space technology. Now the idea of living in space seemed like a realistic goal. A number of [parents] took the time to write me letters or telephone me, thanking me for involving their children in such a unique and useful experience."
and......... "I feel very fortunate that my students have the opportunity to compete in the NASA Space Settlement Design Contest. Since our school district newsletter and our city's newspaper cover my students' participation in the contest, our entire city is more aware of the advancements NASA has accomplished and the possibliities of living in space. I hope that my future students will continue to have the opportunity to participate in this outstanding and unique learning experience. My former students often tell me that participating in the NASA Space Settlement Design Contest was one of the highpoints of their entire education." Stephanie Passeri, Cortland Jr., Sr. High School, Cortland New York. (2004)

[The student managers] asked if we could hold special meetings after school. One of these managers was a young man that most teachers had become fed up with. He was lazy, uninspired, and had an attitude problem. But something changed in this young man. He became proud. He accepted the challenge. Friday’s meeting was a huge success. When parents started arriving, the students were reluctant to leave. Although their meeting lasted two hours and forty-five minutes, they wanted to hold a second [and when I couldn't schedule the meeting they] redoubled their efforts in the classroom and started assigning everyone in their groups (including themselves) HOMEWORK.
I froze when I saw our school’s name under the title of first place winners. I don't remember who shouted first, but the room erupted. The kids were in a celebratory mood for weeks. I overheard one student say to another, "wow, I made more friends by doing this that I would have otherwise!"
I received two very special was from one of the co-project managers. He stated that I had put a small Florida town on the map. My students went above and beyond because NASA sparked their curiosity. They read above their grade-level and asked and answered questions beyond their years.
Shannon Reinhold-Gee, Gordon Burnett Middle School, Seffner Florida.

"In my recent experience with the Space Settlement Design project it became clear that the level of student motivation was miraculous. Many of the student participants became engrossed with the possibilities this subject evoked and in a number of cases study time doubled." -- Fred Jacques, Berlin Community School, Berlin, New Jersey.

"The Space Settlement Design Contest is clearly an event that educates and engages students, teachers and parents. We are grateful that our students have this opportunity."
Mary Francis Callan, Ph.D., Superintendent, Palo Alto Unified School District, August 28, 2003

Here's what parents are saying.

"Thank you Mr.Yager. Words cannot possibly express my appreciation for the wonderful day and tour at Ames Research Center. As you can imagine, it was a dream come true. You did a great job in planning the whole day. Thank you again," Sandi Herczeg 6/1998

Thank you Bryan, for the photograph and the tour of a truly amazing facility. I'm sure that you have sparked interest in some of the students that were in the group. I know that you excited my imagination. It was hard to stay focused on the presentations because my mind was racing with potential applications of the technology I was seeing. There are many prosaic services that can benefit greatly from some of the technological leaps made at your facility. As a lifelong commuter it would seem to me that CalTrans should purchase your services to improve traffic flow and freeway design. (I know it sounds like a stretch, but I so desperately want the traffic improved I would make it work!) It seems a fit. They are stuck with old ideas on traffic and sit on a huge pile of gasoline tax dollars. The research facility has gained a staunch supporter after my tour. I am willing to provide more than lip service. I have strong proposal writing skills and 20 years of experience. I offer my volunteer services to draft proposals for the facility on my own time. I have written proposals for contracts, grant funds, and foundation funds, for training institutions, counties, cities, quasi-governmental agencies, non profit groups, community based organizations, and church groups. It would be fun to write proposals for a research group. Thank you again for a great experience and the photograph. -- David Huerta, Oakley, CA 6/16/2003

Dear Mr. Yager, I would like to tell you that the Contest Mr. Globus and you organize has played a tremendous role in my son's life and educational progress. He has been incredibly motivated to learn many things and to to make progress in various fields, from biology to physics to math and to the basics of economy. As a father, I am most indebted to all the promoters of NASA Space Settlement Contest. Sincerely yours, Horia-Nicolai Teodorescu, Ph.D. 6/21/2005

Here's what students are saying.

7/2/2005 Mr. Yager: We are wordless to thank you for your help in getting us to the sacred land once and again for the second time. Nothing could have taken place without your blessings and hard work. The second trip inside AMES was really great. The CD ROM about the space settlement contest was really great and it had all the necessary details on which we can make a detailed study and do our project for the forthcoming years. I hope that this really saves lots of our time in downloading books as we spent nearly half the time for downloading the sources of information as the net speed in our locality is considerabily slow." -- Manoj.K

5/23/2003 Al Globus: Hi, my name is Felipe Juda. You may not remember me but I surely do not forget the day we went to visit NASA Ames Research Center. To give you a better idea of who I am, I was with a group of students from Argentina which participated in a NASA Contest in 1996 where the objective was to design a Space Colony (our teachers were Gabriel Rshaid and Victor Capeluto). I just wanted to thank you for bringing a whole new world to me by showing us NASA Ames Research Center facilities. That was an experience that I will never forget. Just in one day, you opened our minds towards the future. Thank you very much for your kind gesture. Regards, Felipe Juda

Mr Yager, I would really like to thank you for allowing us to come for the tour at NASA Ames, even on such short notice. It was a wonderful experience, and we really enjoyed it. When I first started this project in November, I had no idea it was going to be so much fun. Once again, thank you for everything. Sincerely, Vrushali Paunikar 6/20/2003

Dear Mr. Yager,
Thank you for a lovely time. It was one of the greateast days of our lives.
Oana Luca (Team Ti2) 6/21/2005

I participated in the 1996, 1997, and 1998 NASA Space Settlement Design Contests. In 1996 I had the pleasure of touring the NASA Ames Research Center with Mr. Al Globus. These contests, along with the opportunity to observe space science first-hand, were invaluable experiences. They have influenced my ambitions and choice of career, as well as my study habits, more than any junior high school or high school class that I took. The contests encourage students to think big, but in a critical way. A successful entry requires seriously hitting the books, the first time I was forced to do so. Beyond directly spotlighting the importance of space settlement and of NASA, I am certain that the contests have had a ripple effect of attracting young minds to ambitious projects across all fields of science and engineering. -- Moshe Looks, PhD, Software Engineer at Google, 2007

Contest Results

Student Art Gallery

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: zero-g recreation, 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, Industrial Technology 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.

To the space settlement home page.

Author: Bryan Yager