Supported by NASA, this is a prestigious, 22-year-old contest meant for high school students across the globe, that sets them a challenge which they must solve in conditions very like that in the actual aerospace industry.
Fifty, say, a hundred years from now, when the planet Earth is inhabitable or overcrowded or both, and we decide to live in settlements on Mars, we could be living inside an air-locked transparent dome located inside a crater on the Red Planet to keep out the dust and radiation. Inside, there would be gardens, apartment complexes, tram systems and quad cars for trans – and even a personal assistant called Alex to take your the garbage and do the laundry.This is the vision of a group of 12 class XII students of Amity International School in Noida, that has just won them the top honours at the prestigious International Space Settlement Design Competition (ISSDC). This is the first time an Indian team has won the contest, although a number of teams participate each year and even go as far as the finals.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Supported by NASA, this is a prestigious, 22-year-old contest meant for high school students across the globe, that sets them a challenge which they must solve in conditions very like that in the actual aerospace industry.This year, the challenge for the students was to design a space colony in Mars that could house over 10,000 people. At the finals, which were held at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida earlier this week, the Indian students went much further. Their settlement, named Argonom, could accommodate as many as 24,000 people and a transient population of another 3,000.Grishma Purewal, the only girl on the team, says: “We had only 41 hours in which to come up with our design, which had to be 40 pages long. It was so rushed we got only a couple of hours of sleep.” Purewal worked on “business development and scheduling and costing”, a key aspect of the design the students had to consider as a Mars settlement needed to be financially viable. As per Purewal’s calculations, the actual construction phase would take 12 to 13 years and cost around $1,226 billion!”We divided the project into several core functions – structural engineering, automation engineering, operations engineering, human engineering. Each of us in a particular function then looked up the Net, searching for papers written by scientists working in the area to think of solutions,” says Chittaranjan Prasad, one of the team members. “The Amity management was also very proactive and the students had access to the aerospace department at Amity University, met Bharat Ratna Dr CNR Rao, ex-ISRO chief Madhavan Nair and K Krishnakumar of NASA for advice,” says Smita Fangaria, their physics teacher who guided the students on the project.The result, especially the attention to detail, is astounding – from waste and water recycling, power generation, security and communication systems, the Amity students’ design even makes provisions for emergencies such as fire, computer malfunction, the design of apartments and spacesuits – one for work and another for leisure activities, temperature regulation (using ammonia pipes for cooling) and maintaining the right air quality for life by planting bacteria on the Martian soil.”It was fun,” says Rishab Srivastava, a team-member whose ambition is to study physics at IIT. “The teachers were very generous and allowed us leave from unit tests and other deadlines. Now the pressure will begin.”