(A write up by Abhishek Mahapatra)

February 2014. Our team was utterly excited about sending our space settlement design to NASA AMES SOCIETY for evaluation. The team included six of the last year's grade 8 students namely, Abhishek Mahapatra, Shaurik Mishra, Aman Patnaik, Sai Krishanth, Satwik Gadanayak and Nitish Mohanty, guided by our teacher Mr. Bijoy Bahadur Mathur. The space settlement design contest is organized by NASA AMES SOCIETY in association with the NATIONAL SPACE SOCIETY every year and students until grade 12 from different parts of the world take part in this outstanding competition.

Our space settlement design, the Zenith's Labyrinth, is the utopian place to live in. At our settlement, oxygen will be obtained using the moon's oxygen and by electrolyzing the water on board. Water will be made by combining the moon's oxygen and the hydrogen protons of the Sun's light.

In space, there is a lot of threat posed by the radiations of the Sun. At "Zenith's Labyrinth"; radiation will be prevented by providing the residents with the radiation-protection suits. There is a layer of ozone in the main outer structure which protects the people from radiation, like the Earth does. Food will be made using the process of genetic engineering and on board our settlement we plan to introduce Indian foods like shakkar para, sajna saag, cucurmin and different assorted Indian herbs and spices. Sajna saag (Moringa Olifera) is a natural anti-cancer chemical and it contains more vitamins than any other food substance. So does cucurmin, a turmeric extract. Moreover, these also help in preventing heart-attacks.

In space humans face certain diseases related to the proper functioning of their bones due to micro gravity. To prevent this we plan to induce artificial gravity at our settlement using the centrifugal force of the settlement when it is rotating to provide an earth-like gravitational pull.

March-April 2014. The results were declared and to every one's joy we came second in the grade 8 section. The preparations to Los Angeles kicked off. We got our invitation letters in our email and we all started booking the flights. We also had to apply for a visa and had to go to Kolkata to appear an interview.

May 2014. We appeared the visa interview and got our visas stamped on our passports. The packing started now and we were all ready to go.

12 May- 20 May 2014. We left for Delhi from Bhubaneswar on the 12th and reached Delhi the same day. Our flight to Dubai was at 4 in the morning. After a tiring but enjoyable flight of 21 hours, we reached Los Angeles on the 13th, by the Californian time. The conference began the next day, 14th; we went on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory tour, where all the testing of space mission flights is carried out, and saw how the Rovers on mars and those orbiting the earth are made. We saw the original rock from moon and many other things of great significance in the field of space development the day closed up with the addressing of Richard Garriot, who is a private astronaut. The conference officially opened from the 15th, many scientists addressed the students coming from different parts of the world. Geoffrey Notkin, a meteorite expert and a very humorous person addressed a huge gathering on the importance of asteroid mining and how many small space rocks keep colliding with the earth and we don't notice them due to their size. He also told that these asteroids have their worth in millions and how they can be mined for huge monetary profits. Our group presented our team's poster and it was quite appreciated. We attended all the lectures and had a great time interacting with the students coming from different countries, sharing knowledge and having loads of fun.

We also had a 3D designing competition which is very essential just as an art to learn. We visited the widely renowned University of Southern California, the California Science Center and the Museum of History. It was all very exciting, fun and knowledgeable at the same time.

On Saturday, the 18th, Buzz Aldrin, the second man on moon addressed the students about the importance of global co-ordination and initiation for space exploration. He spoke about LOCs or lunar Operations Complex and also spoke about exploring Mars and its satellites. He is a genius in mathematics and also boasts a PhD. in the subject. A person of great enthusiasm, he is very active even at a very old age.

Finally we took some time off to visit the famous Disneyland and the Universal Studios where we had fun enjoying the various rides and attractions.

We had our flight back to India on the 20th and we reached Delhi on the 22nd May 2014. We had our flight back to Bhubaneswar in the morning and reached here by about 10:30 a.m. and resumed our normal lives.

Jai hind!
By Abhishek Mahapatra