NSS Competitions for 2010 -2011


For all of you space enthusiasts out there, listen to this podcast by National Space Society member Lynne Zielinski as she discusses contests for students. Lynne teaches at Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook Illinois, and the podcast provides details on competitions sponsored by the National Space Society.

1. NASA/NSS Space Settlement Student Design Contest (for grades 6-12)

NASA Ames Research Center in conjunction with the National Space Society sponsors an annual space settlement design contest for 6-12th grade students. Each spring students send their designs for homes in space for judging by NASA engineers and scientists. The contest has inspired thousands of students and helped hundreds of teachers bring the excitement of space settlement to the youth of America and the world.

2. International Space Settlement Design Competition (for high school)

This contest puts high school students in the shoes of aerospace industry engineers designing a city in space that will be a home for over 10,000 people. Student engineers demonstrate creativity, technical competence, management skills, space environment knowledge, teamwork, and presentation techniques to conquer the problems inherent in siting and designing a Space Settlement (aka Space Colony).

3. Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Awards (for high school)

The Spirit of Innovation Awards program challenges teams of high school students to create innovative products using science, technology, and entrepreneurship to solve 21st century, real-world problems. Eligible students may compete on teams in any of three Challenge Categories.

4. Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest (any age)

Since its early days, science fiction has played a unique role in human civilization. It removes the limits of what “is” and shows us a boundless vista of what “might be.” Its fearless heroes, spectacular technologies and wondrous futures have inspired many people to make science, technology and space flight a real part of their lives and in doing so, have often transformed these fictions into reality. The National Space Society and Baen Books applaud the role that science fiction plays in advancing real science and have teamed up to sponsor this short fiction contest in memory of Jim Baen.

Paths to Space Settlement

I’ve recently finished a paper on space settlement called “Paths to Space Settlement.”  Here’s the abstract:

A number of firms are developing commercial sub-orbital launch vehicles to carry tourists into space. Let’s assume they attract many customers and become profitable. The next, much more difficult, step is to develop orbital tourist vehicles and space hotels to go with them. These hotels will require maids, cooks, waiters, concierges and so forth, some of which may decide to stay, becoming the first permanent residents in space. At some point a bright entrepreneur may notice the large numbers of wealthy elderly people in wheel chairs willing to pay well to get out of them. Add good medical facilities to an orbital hotel and those people could be living in the first zero-g retirement home.

In the meantime, we could choose to solve, once and for all, our energy and global warming problems by developing space solar power, i.e., putting up enormous satellites to gather energy in space and beam it to Earth with no atmospheric emissions at all. To supply a substantial fraction of civilization’s 15 tw energy habit would require huge numbers of launches, not to mention developing the ability to build extremely large structures in orbit, and eventually tapping the moon and asteroids for materials to avoid the environmental cost of mining, manufacturing, and launch from Earth.

The best asteroids to mine would be known if Earth’s people realize we are in a cosmic shooting gallery and build telescopes to find the thousands of deadly asteroids crossing Earth’s orbit. Most of these won’t hit us for millions of years, but there could be one heading our way at any time. Exploiting these Near Earth Ob jects (NEOs) could be made even easier if we take the eminently sensible step of changing the path of a few completely non dangerous NEOs, just for practice in case one is found to be heading our way without much time to develop deflection techniques.

If we do all this, each step of which is justified in it’s own right, we’ll have excellent launch, small orbital living facilities, the ability to build large objects in orbit, and access to extra-terrestrial materials – most of what we need to realize Gerard O’Neill’s space settlement vision. At that point, expect some extremely wealthy religious fanatics to build themselves a small orbital habitat so they don’t have to live with any ’unbelievers.’ Since the first space settlement is by far the hardest to build, from there on it’s just a matter of time until we have an orbital civilization with trillions of inhabitants.

These are paths to space settlement.

By  Al Globus