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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

SC students help design a Mars colony

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Imagine having the power to plan a building project for an entire community. Money is no object; the project can be as extravagant as you wish it to be.

The project will be out of this world, in fact, it will be at Mars.

Three students from Sioux Central School traveled to Houston, Texas recently, along with many other students from Iowa, including seven students from Aurelia, to take part in the NASA Mars Base Settlement Design Competition. The weekend-long event was a real learning experience as the students used their science knowledge to come up with their building plans.

Sioux Central's Courtney Schultz, David Tellefsen and Anna Nelson explained that there were 140 students from Iowa and Texas involved in the NASA project. The students were divided into four "companies" of 35 each. During a 21-hour time period, the companies came up with their proposals for a complex that would accommodate 12,500 people of a diverse group (families, singles, elderly). The complex, it was stated in the imaginary plans, was to be ready for humans to enjoy in the year 2045, with the project beginning 10 years prior to that.

The companies designed every part of the settlement and included stores, tourist spots, a school and other aspects that they would encounter in life on Earth. Many difficulties were addressed as they did their planning. NASA experts were on hand to visit with if the students had questions.

After the allotted amount of time, the proposals were presented to the entire group.

Although one overall proposal was selected by the NASA team, each group had aspects that intrigued the experts.

In their imaginary plans one group chose to use all materials available on Mars. They also chose to send up robots to the planet, programming them to work on the project for three years.

Given a map of Mars' surface, Courtney and David's group selected Olympus Mons for their site. This area contains the largest volcano, 27 km high. They chose this spot for the scenery and so they could use the polar ice caps for water.

Anna, in another group of "engineers", chose to put their complex up in Canyon Marineris, an area four times as deep as the Grand Canyon and 10 times as long. She and her group selected this area for protection purposes - from radiation, dust and wind.

The three Sioux Central students enjoyed taking part in the competition but agreed that they would not want to live on Mars.

Anna commented, "We didn't have alot of time to learn that much about Mars before we went but now we know a lot. We got an overload of information."

In addition to the competition, the students took part in many fun space activities including viewing an Imax movie, "How to be an Astronaut," watching a presentation on current Mars plans, taking a tram to various buildings in Johnson Center, landing simulated space shuttles on a runway, examining moon rocks, getting a close up look at the 333' Apollo 18 Saturn 5 rocket.

Accompanying the Sioux Central students were instructor Karen Stacy and community member, Dan Dodge.

Chosen students from St. Mary's high School will take part in a similar competition this week as they travel to Houston.

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