NASA Space Settlement Contest for High School Students

Deadline: 1 March 2014
Open to: students up to 12th grade (18 years old) from anywhere in the world
Award: $5,000


The annual NASA Space Settlement Contest has opened for entries for 2014. This annual contest, co-sponsored by NASA Ames and the National Space Society (NSS) is for students up to 12th grade. The NASA Space Settlement Contest has been created to research space colonies and orbital settlements, through innovative space settlements designs developed by students.

A billion years ago there was no life on land. In a phenomenal development, by 400 million years ago land life was well established. We are at the very beginning of a similar, perhaps even more important, development. Today Earth teems with life, but as far as we know, in the vast reaches of space there are only a handful of astronauts, a few plants and animals, and some bacteria and fungi; mostly on the International Space Station. We can change that. In the 1970′s Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill, with the help of NASA Ames Research Center and Stanford University, discovered that we can build gigantic spaceships, big enough to live in. These free-space settlements could be wonderful places to live; about the size of a California beach town and endowed with weightless recreation, fantastic views, freedom, elbow-room in spades, and great wealth. In time, we may see millions of free-space settlements in our solar system alone. Building them, particularly the first one, is a monumental challenge.

Why should colonies be in orbit? Mars and the 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.

Individuals, small teams of two to five, and large teams of six or more are judged separately. Entries are also grouped by age/grade of the oldest contestant for judging. Contest categories are:

  • 7th grade and under: individual, small group, large group
  • 8th grade: individual, small group, large group
  • 9th grade: individual, small group, large group
  • 10th grade: individual, small group, large group
  • 11th grade: individual, small group, large group
  • 12th grade: individual, small group, large group

Additional categories based on artistic and literary merit are also included in the contest.

Teachers are encouraged to use this contest as part of their curriculum. See the space settlement teacher’s page HERE.


This annual contest, co-sponsored by NASA Ames and the National Space Society (NSS) is for all students up to 12th grade (18 years old) from anywhere in the world.


The grand prize is awarded to the best entry regardless of contestant age. The single highest scoring team or individual attending will receive the NSS Bruce M. Clark, Jr. Memorial Space Settlement Award for $5,000. If a team wins, the sum will be evenly divided amongst them.

The highest ranking winners attending will be invited to give oral presentations as time is available.

All 2014 contest participants are invited to attend the NSS 33rd annual International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Los Angeles, CA, 14-18 May 2014. Please note that contestants are responsible for all travel arrangements and costs, visas and conference expenses. Also, minors (children under 18) must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Among other potential problems, the hotel may not allow check-in without an adult in the party.


Submissions must relate to orbital settlements. Settlements may not be on a planet or moon. Settlements must be permanent, relatively self-sufficient homes, not temporary work camps.

Designs, original research, essays, stories, models, artwork or any other orbital space settlement related materials may be submitted.
Submissions must be made in hard copy. No electronic submissions are accepted under any circumstances. This includes Power Point presentations, discs, CD’s, DVD, videos or anything but paper. NASA does not return contestant submissions. However, you may create an electronic project, such as a video or web site, and send us a hard copy description of the project. The description should include images and text to describe the project in sufficient detail for judgement. If your electronic project is web accessible, you may include the URL. It will not be used for judging, but NASA may, at its discretion, link to your project from the contest results page.

Two copies of the entry form (available HERE) with the appropriate information must be included with the submission; one firmly attached to the submission and one loosely attached (for example, with a paper clip). If possible, three-hole punch the loose one. Be sure to fill out all fields. Please type if at all possible. Use a separate sheet if necessary.

The submission must be the student’s own work. Plagiarism is forbidden. Quoted materials should rarely be more than a few lines, and never longer than a few paragraphs. Quoting long passages is forbidden. Entries caught plagiarizing, even one part of a large entry, will be disqualified and disposed of.

Entries must arrive by 1 March 2014 in:

NASA Ames Research Center
Al Globus/Mail Stop 262-4
Bldg. 262, Rm. 277
Moffett Field, CA 94035-0001

Only if necessary, direct your questions to

For further information please visit the official website HERE.


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