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February 9, 1999

Eileen M. Hawley
Johnson Space Center
Houston, TX

Rhonda Hewitt
The Boeing Company
Houston, TX
(281) 336-5013


High School Students to Develop Mars Settlement Concepts

Houston area high school students will take up residence at the Johnson Space Center the weekend of February 19 as they design living and working quarters for a human settlement on Mars.

Eighty students from the Houston area will participate in the Space Settlement Design Competition, a program that began in 1984 to introduce students to the skills they will need when they join industry. Organized into four "company" teams, the students will work against a deadline to design, develop and present their concept of a human community on Mars to a team of local judges.

"Each team will learn to work together to develop a "proposal" for the community," said Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar, NASA Astronaut and Assistant Director for University Research and Affairs. "Along the way, they will learn logistics, budget and presentation skills, and have fun while they do it."

Teams will be mentored and coached by executives from NASA, Boeing and other local companies who volunteer their time to guide the students' efforts. Using technologies and materials currently available, the teams must design a community that would support 10,000 residents. They must incorporate construction materials, logistics including transport vehicles, power allocation, robotics systems and life support, then estimate a cost and schedule to complete the project.

At the conclusion of the weekend, the teams will present their concepts to a panel of expert judges who will hold them to an exacting standard.

"We encourage the teams to use their imagination in this project, But if they envision a new technology or material in their concept, they will have to justify its existence to the judges," Dunbar said. "Because this is a community design, the teams should include students interested in a wide variety of careers, including engineering, architecture, agriculture, geology, and design. One of the advantages of this team approach is to introduce students with a non-technical background to the challenging world of engineering."

Once presentations are complete and while the judges make their final decision, the students will tour JSC for a behind-the-scenes look at Space Station facilities and the next-generation X-38 spacecraft currently under development.

Interested Houston area high school students are encouraged to ask their math and science teachers or school principals for more information about this project. The target deadline for registration is Tuesday, February 16.

The Space Settlement Design Competition is the inaugural event of NASA's month-long outreach effort in support of National Engineering Week. The competition is hosted and sponsored jointly by NASA Johnson Space Center, The Boeing Company, the Clear Lake Area Economic Development Foundation's Team NASA, the Clear Creek Independent School District and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Media wishing to document the competition must contact the JSC Newsroom no later than noon, February 17 to arrange for accreditation.


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