They were invited to present the blueprint of a space settlement on the aero-synchronous orbit of Mars at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC). For the class X students of Jalandhar's Apeejay School, winners of the NASA Ames Annual Student Space Settlement Design Contest, this was a huge achievement, a dream come true. For the contest was tough. They were pitted against 562 contestants from 19 countries. The conference was organized by the National Space Society.
"This has been a life changing experience," says Prajjwal Mahajan, ASTRO team member, Apeejay School. "The contest is all about training the people who we hope will build the first space settlements," says Al Globus, National Space Society Board of Directors & Co- founder, NASA Ames Space Settlement contest.
Since its inception in 1994, the contest has strived to cultivate the spirit of innovation and design among students across the globe. "We gambled that the World Wide Web would allow us to provide research materials to students all over the world and we were right," says Globus.
The Apeejay ASTRO team comprising, Prajjwal Mahajan, Aditya Pratap Singh, Amareen Sandhu, Hatinderpal Singh Ghotra, Hetarth Chopra and Karan Chouhan, began working on the model eight months ago. "We missed sleep and even studies over this project, but now on winning the competition, all that doesn't matter one bit," says Karan Chouhan.
Two months ago, the team submitted a 113 page space settlement project VONA to NASA Ames, California. Apart from presenting at the ISDC, the grand prize included the Bruce Clarke award of USD 2,500 and also the Star Map Crystal award. "Our excitement had no boundaries when we gave a 12 minute presentation to the NASA scientist and astronauts," says Chouhan.
Mahajan explains settlement model, "VONA is an industrial and mining based settlement. It extracts resources from Earth, Moon, Mars and its Satellites. It is also designed to capture Asteroid AMUN 3554 which will come closest to Earth in 2061." The settlement looks at supporting 16640 residents in the colony and will provide Earth-like environment with pseudo-gravity, air, water, waste, energy, illumination and all other life support systems so as to keep its inhabitants thriving in the harsh conditions of space.
The six member team has been on cloud nine since being adjudged as winners. "Our school has been participating in NASA competitions every year and winning prizes at the international level for last eight years, but we had not anticipated such a great prize," says Mahajan. At NASA, they were interviewed by Hollywood movie maker Warner Brothers Company, the excerpts of which will be showcased in Christopher Nolan's upcoming movie "Interstellar." The team was also interviewed by 20th Century Fox and Science Museum of Minnesota on their programme on space colonization. Impressed with their feat, the movie moghuls hired the students as orators in the upcoming events. They have also been invited at the 1st Caribbean Space Summit to be held at Puerto Rico, in October this year.
Winning in this contest means a lot to its participants. Not only does it bring awards and accolades, but also furthers a student's thirst for pursuing research "The project was all about human being's futuristic exploration and space colonization. We are hopeful that the team will achieve even greater success in future," says Globus. "Our road ahead is crystal clear. We will continue with the research and take on bigger role in the field of space colonization," concludes Mahajan.
* Any student, in class XII or younger, is eligible
* Winners are selected by volunteer judges from NASA Ames Research Center
* For detailed information visit http://settlement.arc.nasa.gov/Contest/