Teen designers to present US paper on space colony

A space colony for the super-rich more than 500km above the Earth and catering for 40,000 people has scooped a major prize and won its teenage designers a trip to Washington DC.

Four students from St Flannan’s College in Ennis have won second place in their category at the elite international Nasa/Ames annual “Space Settlement Design” competition.

Entrants had to design a self-sufficient space colony capable of housing thousands of inhabitants.

“This was a difficult project, it’s a real learning curve, ” said science and maths teacher Mike Horgan.

The students designed a space colony which resembles two bicycle wheels joined by a central axis.

The colony, made of concrete, silicate, and steel, is completely self-sufficient, growing its own crops and is capable of raising pigs and chickens.

The four science buffs, two boys and two girls, drew from almost every aspect of their curriculum for the project — maths, chemistry, biology, physics, art, economics, and geography are just some of the subjects they used.

“They also had to know a bit about business and politics because they have to decide on the governance of the colony,” said Mr Horgan.

Team-member Peter O’Connell-Stack, 14, said trying to come up with “something extraordinary” was the hardest part. “The most difficult bit was trying to be unique and come up with something different to everyone else,” he explained.

Caitlyn Horgan, a 15-year-old Junior Certificate student, designed the layout of the colony’s buildings and calculated the level of gravity — similar to that of Earth. She said: “The hardest bit was doing the calculations for the rotations, which are necessary to keep the gravity stable.”

The team will present their paper at the International Space Development Conference in Washington DC from May 24-28.


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