Space Settlement Contest
Watch this space for contest news. Note the following:
- We are now accepting 2020 submissions at https://spacesettlement.awardsplatform.com/.
- There is a registration fee of $12. Waivers are available for hardship cases.
- This contest has been sponsored by NASA Ames Research Center from 1994-2018, for many of those years in conjunction with the National Space Society (NSS). In 2019 sponsorship was fully transferred to the National Space Society.
This annual contest
is for all students at up to 12th grade from anywhere in the world. Individuals, small teams of two to five, and large teams of
six to twelve are judged separately.
No more than 12 students on a project. Entries are also grouped by age/grade of the oldest contestant for judging. The age groups are 7th and younger, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th. The grand prize
is awarded to the best entry regardless of contestant age.
Students develop space settlement designs and related materials.
These will be submitted online at https://spacesettlement.awardsplatform.com. Submissions must be received by February 15.
Check out the results of the 1994,
2018, and 2019 contests.
Contest deadline, prizes and certificates:
- All submissions must be received by February 15.
- Participant certificates will be distributed in pdf form. You will get a link to this certificate when you submit your entry.
- Winner certificates, also in pdf format, will include the names of the students. These should arrive via email by late August. The registered user email address will be used.
- The best submission, regardless of category, wins the grand prize, consisting of the space settlement submission being placed on the contest World Wide Web site.
- The National Space Society (NSS) invites all 2020 contest participants to attend the NSS 2020
International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Dallas, TX, May 28-31.
Every year, hundreds of contestants attend, along with their parents, teachers, siblings and friends.
Special activities for contestants are planned, including:
These activities are not yet finalized and may change. Nonetheless, this is a tremendous opportunity to present your work, meet some of the most
important people in space development as well as your fellow contestants, and have a great time.
- The highest ranking winners attending will be invited to give oral presentations as time is available.
- To the extent space is available, all contestants who attend will be invited to display a poster of their work.
- Special sessions are arranged for contestants, teachers, parents, etc.
- The highest ranking attending entry will receive the Herman Rubin Award of $5,000 and give a plenary talk at one of the conference's signature events.
If you are planning to attend ISDC 2020, please see the ISDC Space Settlement Students Web Site.
Only if necessary, contact [email protected].
Note: 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 (21 years or older). Among other potential problems, the hotel may not allow check in without an adult in the party.
Students from outside of U.S. planning on attending the ISDC should apply as soon as possible for a passport and (if necessary) a visa.
It may take some time (months) to acquire them.
If you need a letter of invitation, please use the form at
ONLY if that does not work, requests for letters of invitation
can be sent to [email protected] along with the school name, address, and names of students,
teachers, or family members needing the letter.
- Contest categories are
Additional categories based on artistic and literary merit are also included in the contest.
- 7th grade and younger: 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.
Here are some of the grand prize entries from previous years:
- Submissions must relate to free space settlements. Settlements may not be on a planet or moon, although support activities such as mining may be. Settlements must be permanent homes,
not temporary work camps. Submissions may focus on one or a few aspects of space settlement and supporting systems, including mines, activities leading up to settlement (such as space
hotels), economic and social issues, etc.
- Designs, original research, essays, stories, models, artwork or any other orbital space settlement related materials may be submitted.
- Submissions should not be longer than 50 pages unless it is essential to explain the work.
The project must consist of 1-10 pdf or jpg files (usually just one). Each may be no larger than 24 MB.
- Submissions will be made electronically.
- The submission must be the student's own work. Plagiarism is forbidden. No part of an entry may
copied with one exception:
You may quote short passages, but only if the material is surrounded in double quotes (") and the source indicated.
For example: "This material copied from somewhere," My Favorite Space Book. 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.
- Instructors, mentors or parents may assist the student by presenting relevant resources, discussing core concepts and suggesting minor edits, but the work itself must be entirely student produced.
- All entries that are not excluded for plagiarism will be judged by one or more judges on their merits. Once the judges submit their scores on a particular entry, the judges’ scores cannot be changed. All decisions by the judges are final. The judges’ decisions cannot be challenged in any way by any contestant. By submitting your entry, you agree that you cannot and will not contest the judges’ decisions in any way.
You may use other people's ideas in your entry, but not other people's writing. You may use images from the web, but please credit the source.
In recent years plagiarism, copying other people's writing rather than doing your own, has become a serious problem.
Every year up to 30% of all entries are caught copying materials from the web. They are eliminated from the competition.
To avoid plagiarism, we recommend that you
In other words: always write it yourself. Note that
copying material and changing a few words here and there is also plagiarism. Write your own material!
- Never use copy/paste for any text in your project.
- Never write your project while looking at anybody else's text.
- Never memorize a passage and type it into your project.
We expect teachers to check every project from their students for plagiarism and not permit entries with plagiarism to be submitted to the contest.
To check for plagiarism look for places where the English is very
good and/or is a different style from the rest of the project.
Use Google (or other search engine) by surrounding 6-8 suspect words with double quotes,
"text I think might be plagiarised by someone." If there is a perfect match, then look at the source material to make sure there wasn't an
accidental match. Most of the time it will be plagiarism and must be removed from the project. There are also
some automated plagiarism detectors available on the web. Consider using them. Please do not send us plagiarized material!
Plagiarism is particularly sad for teams when one team member plagiarizes and the others are ethical.
For teams, we recommend that students check each other for plagiarism.
Resources and Tips
- Avoid excessively long entries.
- If your entry is longer than 5-10 pages, consider including a one page executive summary on the best features of your entry.
Be sure to include original ideas, major focus, and any parts particularly well done in the executive summary.
This will help the judges find the best parts of your entry.
- Avoid including material not directly related to your space settlement or settlement related issue. This is a space settlement contest and marginally related material
will make it difficult for the judges. If they can't find your space settlement elements easily you won't score well.
- Refer to the Space Settlement Home Page
- Refer to the NSS Space Settlement Journal, a peer reviewed, open access journal on all aspects of space settlement.
- Refer to Free-Space Settlements by Al Globus (head judge).
- Refer to the NSS Space Settlement Library
- Refer to the head judge's advice.
- Use the space settlement teacher's page.
- Refer to the NSS Library.
- Refer to the Generic Earth Orbiting Space Settlement Requirements by Anita Gale.
- Models are hard to handle and expensive to ship. If you have a physical model,
- Do your best to get the science right.
- Make your design as quantitative as possible.
- Include a bibliography. We want to know where you got your ideas and materials. Better: use proper references, including image credit.
- Be creative. Surprise the judges. Put something of your own personality into your work.
- Consider designing a colony that you would really like to live in.
- Consider alternate possibilities and clearly describe why you made the choices you did.
- Present your material clearly and neatly.
- When you discuss someone else's ideas or work, which almost all entries do, reference it. We recommend a reference format along the lines of "[author year]." For example, you might write:
Small children may not to be allowed in the center of the cylinder since radiation levels are minimized near the hull [Horia 2005].
Then in the References section at the end of your paper put:
[Horia 2005] Horia Mihail Teodorescu and Al Globus, "Radiation Passive Shield Analysis and Design for Space Applications," SAE 2005 Transactions Journal of Aerospace.
- If you use someone else's image, add "Image credit" to give credit where credit is due.
- Submissions must be received by February 15.
- All decisions by the judges are final.
- Have fun.
To learn about orbital space settlements, consider reading The High Frontier: an Easier Way by Tom Marotta and Al Globus.
The 2020 contest will be conducted digitally. No more paper entries. Click here to register, enter your project data, and submit your entry.
Space settlements 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 settlements 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.
We are soliciting testimonials of experiences with this contest. If you have something to say about your experience with this contest,
send an email to [email protected]. Do not use this email for general inquiries, testimonials
only! Selected testimonials
will be posted on the
NSS web site and/or used in a scientific paper on the contest. Accepted testimonials may be edited for English and clarity.
Other Space Settlement Contests
Additional Space Settlement sites include:
Author: Al Globus
This site was hosted by the NASA Ames Research Center from 1994-2018 and is now hosted by: