Northwest AEA, led by educational consultant Jordan Menning, sponsored a trip to Johnson Space Center last week for 95 students from northwest Iowa plus four additional Iowa students. The competition emulated the experience of working as a member of an aerospace company team, developing a design and operations proposal for a large human spacecraft called Benevectoras, which orbits the sun in a special orbital pattern which repeatedly passes close to the Earth and also close to Mars. On arrival at Mars, the spacecraft separates from Benevectoras and makes its individual descent to the Martian surface. The reverse sequence is used to return vehicles from Mars to Earth. This allows the spacecraft traveling between Earth/Mars/Earth to use the facilities and resources of Benevectoras to support and maintain the transiting spacecraft. The design activity and preparation of an operating plan for Benevectoras needed to include complete descriptions of its design features, operating plans, schedule for design and construction, and the yearly and total expected cost of construction and 25 years of operation.  

In the competition scenario, set approximately 45 years in the future (the year 2060), the Foundation Society, an imaginary private organization which promotes human exploration and colonization of space, issued an urgent call to industry to propose the design and operations plan and strategy for Benevectoras, which will be capable of housing and transporting over 10,000 inhabitants (permanent Benevectoras crew, as well as the passengers on the transiting spacecraft). The design and operations needed to provide regular transport service to and from Earth/Mars in a safe, reliable and cost-effective manner.

Here is what one student had to say about her trip to NASA: "Thank you so much for this opportunity! It has been an amazing experience and has opened my eyes to what my future holds. I am so excited to become an aerospace engineer after this amazing experience."

Congrats to all who participated in the competition at NASA!