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NASA Ames Space Settlement Contest 2016

Deadline: Deadline: Always Open01-Mar-2016
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AwardA NASA certificate & The Topper will get $5,000
EligibilityClass 7 to 12
RegionAll India
Scholarship provider contact details

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

What is NASA Ames Space Settlement Contest 2016?

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.

Who can apply for this scholarship ?

  • 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.

How can you apply ?

Send a hard copy of your entry and two hard copies of a filled out entry form (one firmly attached to your entry and the other loosely attached, perhaps with a paper clip) to:

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

Entries must arrive by March 1, 2016.

NOTE: we do not send verification that entries have been received. Please don't ask for one. If you want to know if the entry has arrived, use a service that requires a signature.

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


How do I enter the contest?
Simply send your entry to NASA Ames by the deadline along with entry forms. All entries must be hard copy (paper), no electronic entries are permitted. See the contest web page for details.

How do I register for the contest?
You don't. There is no registration. Simply send your entry to NASA Ames by the deadline along with entry forms. See the contest web page for details.

How and when should I send my entry to NASA Ames?
We recommend either the U.S. Postal Service or a commercial service such as FedEx, UPS, or DHL. You should time sending such that your entry arrives at Ames well before the deadline. Do not send via registered mail, that can actually delay delivery significantly and is no more reliable.

How and when will the results be known?
Contest results will be posted at a link from the contest web page a few days after judging is complete. Juding is usually complete 2-3 weeks after the contest deadline.

How and when will I get my certificate?
Certificates will be sent using the U.S. Postal Service, which will send the envelopes overseas as well as to the US. Certificates take some time to make, so it usually takes a few months after the judging is complete to make and send them all.

Can you send my certificate via commercial service or courier?
No. The contest is a very low budget affair and we can use the U.S. Postal Service at no cost.

What should I do if my certificate is wrong or never arrives?
Send an email to the address below. Include the name or all the students on the project, the name of project, any prizes won, and the address to send new certificates to. Be sure that the address is formatter exactly as it should appear on the envelope. For example, do not put the address all on one line, but on multiple lines exactly as it should appear on the envelop. Also, include the name that should go on the envelope in the address.

How can I reduce the chance my certificate will be wrong or never arrive?
Most of these errors happen when entry forms are hard to read. Type your entry form. The people reading the certificates have a hard time with anything hand written, particularly from foreign countries. Also, after you have printed your entry form, look at it. If it is hard to read, fix it!

I didn't get my NSS certificate at ISDC, can you help me?
No. Those certificates are handled by the NSS (National Space Society), not NASA, and are only available to contestants attending ISDC (the International Space Development Conference).

What will happen if part of my entry is plagiarized?
We will send an email to the address on your entry form. You will not receive a certificate. Please do not ask for one, pretending it got lost in the mail.

Can I get my entry back?

On Earth gravitational attraction prevents us from floating away. In a space settlement, the mass is much less as compared to Earth and no gravitational force is present, so how can we create gravity?
You don't. Only mass creates gravity. That's basic physics.

We can create pseudo-gravity -- something that feels a lot like gravity but isn't -- by rotation. If you have ever played on an old fashioned merry-go-round or been on a spinning ride at an amusement park you have felt as if you were pulled away from the center of rotation. That same effect is used to produce pseudo-gravity on a space settlement.

If you've never been on a rotating ride, next time you are in a car going around a corner, notice that you feel as if you are being pushed towards the side of the car opposite the direction of turn. Think about what is happening when you feel that force, and you'll understand how pseudo-gravity is created.

Terms and Conditions


  • 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 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). 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. 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 minor editing, but the work itself must be entirely student driven.
  • Always include a bibliography.
  • Submissions are not returned. Keep a copy for yourself.


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

  • 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.

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!

Teachers should check every project from their students for plagiarism. 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, for example "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.

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