Students to develop plans for Mars base

Competing over plans for a manned base on Mars, high school students will perform an exercise in technology development and government procurement at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston.

At the Mars Settlement Design Competition Feb 11-13, about 150 students will form companies to respond to a fictional request for proposal for a manned base on Mars. The base should be designed to serve a function, such as mining for water on the south pole of Mars and transporting it to another populated Mars base. The event is sponsored by Boeing Co. and NASA.

The students will be asked to create a scenario set in about 2050 that uses technology that could realistically be developed by that time, said Norman Chaffee, education outreach specialist at Johnson Space Center.

"They have to ground the proposal in reality," he said. "They must project technology that would exist in the future or include how they plan to develop new technology" to carry out tasks specified in the solicitation.

Over the weekend of the event, four teams of students will devise formal proposals and presentations using computer-aided drawings and Microsoft Corp. PowerPoint presentations. A panel of judges will evaluate the proposals and award the "contract" to the winning team, Chaffee said.

Last year was the first year NASA helped sponsor the contest, which attracted about 70 students, Chaffee said.

More information about the competition can be found at spaceflight.nasa.gov/mars/competition/.

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